Learning your baby’s cues in a new environment
You and your baby learned to communicate with each other when you were in the NICU and it may take some time to relearn your baby’s cues now that you are home. Your baby may notice the differences in noise and lighting levels and the different types of contact he has. Your baby may react by being fussier or by being quieter. Notice how your baby reacts to being at home. They may react more to noises, or sleep better in a noisy room. They may feed better at certain times.
When your baby is ready for social time
- Open their eyes and make eye contact.
- Wiggle their body, breathe easily, move their arms and legs in a relaxed but eager way, and make different facial movements – all to get your attention!
- Blink or make movements in response to your motion or sounds you make.
- Mimic your expressions such as opening your mouth, pursing your lips, etc.
When your baby is ready for a time out
- Grimace, yawn, grunt, or hiccough, stretch or stiffen their arms and legs, breathe unevenly, or arch their back and head.
- Honour your baby’s request for a time out and give them a break from direct contact. Hold your baby quietly or put them in their cot to rest.
Establishing a routine
- All babies need a predictable routine to help them grow and develop; preterm babies need this even more so.
- Provide your baby with a consistent routine with frequent naps and quiet times, but also with regular social and play time.
If you feel you would like some support at home you can find out more here.
The transition from hospital to home is a big step for you, your baby and the whole family and is often a time of mixed emotions. It takes time to adjust, but gradually you will learn together what you need to do.
In many ways, caring for your premature baby at home may not be so different from how you had imagined life with a new baby. You will have plenty of time to cuddle and play with them and watch them grow. It is time for you to care for your baby in your way, and it can feel as if ‘real’ family life can finally begin. However, it will also be a big adjustment for all of you. There are a number of people who are available to help you and your baby. When your baby is discharged from the unit, a group of health professionals will continue to advise you on issues like feeding, growth, immunisations and development, as well as general baby care.
Every family in Northern Ireland is assigned a health visitor when there is a new baby in the family. Yours may have already visited you while you were still in the unit. Unless your baby still needs to see a specialist, your health visitor will be your main professional support once you go home and will follow your baby’s development from birth to school age.
The health visitor will carry out basic health checks for growth, developmental milestones, and might organise immunisations. She or he is a valuable source of information on promoting health, home safety and parenting skills. Health visitors are available for home visits and at baby clinics.
General practitioner (GP)
Your baby should be registered with a local GP in the catchment area of your home address. Your GP can help with any health-related problem and can also make referrals to other specialised health professionals.
You may see a nurse at your GP’s surgery or your local health centre. Practice nurses are often responsible for your baby’s immunisations.
If you find that you do not feel confident about caring for your baby at home, remember that help is at hand. You can speak to your health visitor or your GP and explain to them how you are feeling – often some practical, objective advice is all you need. You may also be able to see a counsellor through the unit that discharged you. Contact your unit for more information.
Alternatively, call TinyLife and as family support officer will be able to help. The line is open from 10am to 4pm, Monday to Friday 02890 815050. You can also email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
We are able to offer home-based family support. If you feel that you would benefit from some extra help through our family support volunteers, our family support officers will try to match you and your family with a trained volunteer. While we do not always have volunteers immediately available in your area we endeavour to match you with a suitable volunteer as soon as possible.
Our family support volunteers provide practical, social and emotional support to families of premature and sick babies. All our volunteers are given full training to enable them to provide families with the best possible service to meet their needs. They also receive regular ongoing support and training updates.
You can read the stories of some of the families who have experienced the help of a volunteer. This will help you decide whether you too could benefit from this invaluable service.
Getting Out and About
Social interaction is important for babies as they grow and develop. You may also find it helps you to have time socialising with other parents. There are many mother and baby/toddler groups available to you and each health visitor has a list of these in your area. This is usually in the front of your red book. TinyLife run a number of groups throughout Northern Ireland specifically for parents and babies who have been in a neonatal unit. TInyLife also provide a baby sensory room and baby massage classes. To find out more visit TinyLife.
As your baby grows and develops, you will begin to think about day care, playgroups, and nursery. Your health visitor can give you advice on locally available day care, playgroups, and nursery etc. However, often the best advice will come from family and friends who have already been there! Talk to others who will be able to help you decide what might be best for you and your baby. Within Northern Ireland there are a number of organisations to help you. Some examples include: Family Support NI, Northern Ireland Childminders Association, and advice from the government. Please see our support services section here.
Remember, you can always speak to your health visitor or your GP about how you are feeling.
It is time for you to care for your baby in your way.
When your baby is ready for social time they might open their eyes and make eye contact.