If your baby is born before 37 completed weeks of pregnancy, he is considered a prem baby. Since the womb is a perfect sensory world for your baby’s development we need to think about how our sensory world affects babies if they do not have the benefit of the full 40- weeks of pregnancy. We call this sensory developmental care – sensory care that protects your baby’s development and is more similar to what the experiences would have been like in the womb.
When can you start
If your baby is born before 34 weeks or is medically fragile, his medical needs will take precedence over sensory developmental care but once your baby is more stable and definitely from 34 week’s gestation ask the medical team when it is reasonable to put in place sensory care for your prem baby.
What to do:
Premature babies have a lower threshold for stimuli and must be treated with extra care. The following tips may help your preemie transition from womb to world:
• Cover his incubator with a towel or blanket to protect him from the glare and visual stimuli of the neonatal nursery.
• When handling your preemie, watch him for signs of withdrawal and warning signals such as arching or grimacing. At these times try not to handle him and reduce the sensory stimuli in his environment. Handle him only when he is calm and alert.
• As soon as he is medically more stable or weighing 1kg. Start to care for him Kangaroo-style, which entails wearing him on your body in skin-to-skin contact. Not only will he be happier and gain weight quicker and possibly even breastfeed in this position but it can have excellent long-term developmental effects.
• Don’t wear perfume and watch the smells of detergent on your clothes, as your preemie is very sensitive to smells.
Remember that “Premature babies are even more sensitive to sensory stimuli and may become over-stimulated more quickly than babies born full term.”