5 Tips For Bonding With Your NICU Baby

Many parents do not anticipate having to have a child stay in the NICU. This is an extremely emotional experience and can affect the parent’s ability to bond with their babies. Here are 5 great tips to help!


by Tatum Spruill | staff writer for The Snap Mom

When I found out I was pregnant with my third baby, I was thrilled. I pictured a healthy baby with ten fingers and toes that would come home to complete our family after 2-3 days in the hospital. As they always say, “If you want to hear God laugh just tell him your plans.”

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After a prenatal diagnosis of Down Syndrome and a heart defect, I anticipated a NICU stay for my new baby boy. However I did not anticipate how emotionally difficult that would be. Four days after delivering my son via c-section, I was released from the hospital. Unfortunately, I did not get to take him with me. The first two weeks of my son’s life, I struggled to really form a bond with him. I felt like a monster. The first time I ever held him, I felt awkward due to the machine wires and his large oxygen mask. In the midst of trying to situate myself, I accidentally tilted his head to far forward and cut off his airway which caused his oxygen and heart rate to drop. That incident traumatized me, and I was so scared that I let days pass before I held him again. When my husband had to go back to work, I decided that I needed to figure out how to emotionally attach to my precious baby. I made a list of what I did in hopes that it can help somebody else struggling with the same thing.

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1. Bring your own clothes to dress your baby in.

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Most hospitals provide little onesies or t-shirts with their logo on it to put on your baby. I found that buying my own little outfits made me happy and excited to get back to the hospital and dress him. It was a mini photo shoot every day!

2. Read books to your baby.

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One morning when I was sitting next to my son’s crib, a hospital volunteer came by and told me I could pick out a book for my baby. I read to him every morning and started bringing my own that way I could read him a different story every day.

3. Make a ‘journey necklace’.

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This was actually something that the hospital did for any baby that was going to be there for an extended period of time. I started with beads that spelled out his name, Jansen, and a little turtle that stood for “a slow and steady journey”. For every test my son went through, he got a new bead on his necklace. If the season changed or a holiday came up, I added a bead. Every month he got a ‘birthday’ bead. For any little milestone, I chose a new bead to add and was eager to show it off to the visitors he had. I am excited for the day that he is old enough to understand everything he fought through.

4. Do as many ‘cares’ as you can.

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In the NICU, the nurses refer to changing a diaper, taking a temperature, changing clothes, and giving a bath as a ‘care’ for your baby. Whether you are present or not, the nurses are more than happy to do these things, but they will not argue if you are there and want to do it yourself. I loved to give my son a bath because he would be wide awake, and I could really interact with him and I enjoyed listening to him coo.

5. Use Kangaroo care with your baby.

At our hospital, they refer to skin to skin contact as kangaroo. I would wear a loose shirt or tank top and the wonderful nurses would put up a screen so that I had a little privacy. I put my sweet little boy under my shirt, and he would snuggle into my chest. My son spent three months in the NICU at two different hospitals. He is now 9.5 months old and is such a tremendous blessing to our little family.

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Tatum is a wife and mother who lives in a small town in Texas. She is blessed to be a stay at home mom and to feed her passion for spreading Down Syndrome Awareness through writing.