Authored by Revere Health

How to Bond With Your Baby in the NICU

April 27, 2018 | OB/GYN

A neonatal intensive care unit (often abbreviated as a NICU) specializes in the care of ill or premature newborns. No mother wants their child to end up here, both because of the health risks it signals, but also because it can make forming a bond with the baby more difficult if there are periods of time when you are unable to hold your baby.

Despite that, there are still ways you can go about building that relationship even in the NICU. Here is some information that may help if you find yourself in a situation with a newborn in a neonatal intensive care unit.

Prepare for the Emotions

Prepare yourself for the fact that having your child in the NICU will be emotional and difficult. You’ll have good days and bad days, and may feel emotions that range from fear and anger to guilt, loss, and a lack of control over the situation.

You may also feel disappointed or feel that things are not going according to plan. Know that all these emotions are completely normal during this process, and that can help you accept these feelings and come to terms with them. If you need emotional support during these times, don’t be afraid to ask for it from family, friends, or medical and mental health professionals.

Vocal Communication

Babies generally won’t understand the words you’re saying, but they can begin recognizing familiar sounds and voices early in life. Over time, they will recognize your voice—in fact, this is how babies develop language skills. Spend some time talking or reading to your baby; there’s evidence that pre-term babies who hear adults speaking during their NICU stay have better-developed language skills by age three than those who did not hear adults speaking or who heard only limited speaking.

Involve Yourself In Care

In cases where you aren’t allowed to hold the baby, there are other ways you can get involved in their care. Some examples include:

  • Kangaroo care: For children who are stable enough, this is a skin-to-skin care process where the baby is undressed down to just a diaper, and tucks into the mother’s chest on her skin. You can maintain this position for up to four hours as long as the baby is in good condition. Babies enjoy it, as do parents.
  • Diaper change: A NICU doctor may stay bedside with you while you do this, just to make sure cords and tubes are in place and everything is comfortable. You can also help with tucking in blankets or changing clothes.
  • Temperature: You can also help take their temperature as they progress.
  • Bathing: You may be able to help bathe your baby if the conditions are right.
  • Breastfeed or bottles: When the baby begins taking food, the mother can breastfeed or the father can offer bottles.

No parent wants a baby to be in the NICU, but understanding what to expect and knowing what steps you can take to bond with your baby can make a big difference if your newborn does end up here. Talk to your NICU doctor and/or your OB/GYN if you still have questions.

Obstetricians/gynecologists at Revere Health OB/GYN provide a full range of healthcare services to women throughout all stages of their lives including; puberty, child-bearing years, menopause.


“How to Bond with Your Baby in the NICU.” Penn Medicine.

“Adult Talk in the NICU With Preterm Infants and Developmental Outcomes.” AAP News & Journals.


The Live Better Team

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This information is not intended to replace the advice of a medical professional. You should always consult your doctor before making decisions about your health.