At less than 27 weeks I will be very small. Let the staff guide you when to touch and care for me. Over time watch how I move and react, you will soon recognise when I am calm and times when I need rest and sleep.
Try not to be frightened by all the equipment keeping me company in and around the incubator. Staff will explain these to you. Be aware that not all alarms mean something bad is happening. You will notice that as I grow and get ‘older’ I will need less equipment.
At this age my skin is fragile and sensitive. Begin talking to me quietly, then add touch slowly, if I can tolerate it. Talk to me in a soft and soothing voice to prepare me for your touch. Touch me using continuous gentle pressure and avoid stroking or rubbing my skin. Cradle my head and the lower part of my body (depending on equipment) to help me feel contained and secure similar to when I was in the womb. It is nice for you to place your finger in the palm of my hand and watch me hold onto you.
When holding me, swaddle me in a blanket/sheet and keep my arms and legs close to my body. Provide boundaries around my body during nappy changes to prevent this from being a stressful event and move me slowly and gently.
I also enjoy long periods of kangaroo care/skin to skin. This allows me to become familiar with your smell and I know that we will enjoy these special moments.
Touching and holding me should be done slowly and gently. With help from the nursing staff I can be moved gently from the incubator to your arms. Remember the type of movement I should be experiencing in the womb. Hold me still, rather than rocking or jiggling. When finished touching or holding me, remove your hands gently and slowly from my body and avoid abrupt changes.
Sleep is so important for me at this stage. Rest promotes my growth and brain development. The staff will guide you as to when is the best time to handle me and help you get used to my cues.
It is difficult to tell if I am awake or asleep but my sleep patterns will become more apparent as I get older. When I am sleeping, try not to wake me as you touch and hold me. Avoid noise and light in my bed space and support times of rest so that I can save my energy.
My senses are still actively developing as I should really still be within the quietness and darkness of the womb.
My eyes are usually closed at this stage but my eyelids are thin enough to let light through. The nurses will use an incubator cover to protect my eyes from the bright light. I do not need light at this stage for my eyes to develop. Dimmed lighting also promotes sleep and reduces stress.
I will have listened to muted sounds in the womb so it is important that you do not bombard me with loud noises. My surroundings should be quiet enough that I can listen to your voice easily. The nurses will promote a quiet atmosphere in the unit and reduce background noise for this reason. Noise will wake me up and what is important just now is sleep.
I am likely to have some equipment attached to my nose or face to help me breathe a little easier. I will be able to taste and smell but cannot coordinate swallowing and breathing in order to suck my feed. Fluids and nutrition will be given by lines into my arms, legs or even my belly button. My stomach is very small so the nurses will try to give very small amounts of your expressed milk by a feeding tube into my nose or mouth.
In the womb I would often suck my fingers or thumbs at this stage. Try to mimic this by placing my fingers or thumbs near my mouth. Using breast milk for mouth care helps me with taste and also keeps my mouth clean. If I have breathing equipment on my face the staff will help you with this and may even suggest using a little dummy to place in my mouth.
Most of my movements will be jerks and startles. I will try to stretch my limbs but do not yet have control of this. I will need help to maintain a secure, contained position that mimics my movements in the womb. Positioning me with my hands near my mouth and arms/legs curled up will help with normal development. My nurses will help you with this.
I will be positioned using various forms of equipment to provide boundaries around me to maintain a snuggled position. When I move my limbs the boundaries should be firm enough to allow me to push against and come back into the middle, just as I did when you would have felt me kicking in the womb. This is needed for normal development. Staff will advise you on how to contain me and which position is less stressful for me. You will soon notice this for yourself. Always try to move me slowly and gently when you carry out any care. Remember the type of movement I would have been used to in the womb.
Well supported, Correct position
Unsupported, Incorrect position