“Some babies need to be looked after in a special care unit. It can be very hard to see your baby in an incubator or covered in tubes. But even if you cannot yet bring the baby home, there is a lot you can do.
Spend as much time as possible by your baby’s side, talking softly so that he or she gets to know your voice. Hold the baby’s hand and stroke him or her through the holes in the side of the incubator. Cuddle the baby as much you are able: skin to skin contact helps to regulate a baby’s heartbeat, body temperature and breathing, and it is very calming.
Breastfeeding helps you to bond. It gives you the satisfaction of knowing that you are giving your baby the best possible nourishment and is also the one thing that you can do for your child that nobody else can. If the baby can’t be taken out of the incubator, then you can express milk to be given through a tube. The hospital should help you to do this by lending you an efficient breast pump and giving you privacy to use it. It can be hard to establish a good milk supply by expressing alone, so ask for support from a breastfeeding counsellor.
Occasionally a baby needs to be taken to a different hospital for special care while the mother is too ill to travel. This is very distressing, and it will help if the father can become the main carer for a while. If you are a mother in this situation, it is important to remember that you will be able to start the bonding process later on. In the meantime, keep a photograph of your baby with you. Some hospitals use webcams so that parents can see their babies even when they cannot be with them.