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Touch in the NICU: Good for Babies, Moms, Partners

Originally posted January 8, 2014.

You, at your fingertips, possess an inexpensive, powerful way to reduce feelings of isolation, depression, anxiety and grief in only ten minutes a day.

Current research shows that only 10 minutes a day of safe touch reduces depressive and anxious symptoms.

Can you spare ten minutes a day to connect with your partner, express support with your partner in a gentle, emotional way?

Parents of infants in the Neonatal Intensive Unit (NICU) are suffering deeply. They are fearful, grieving, anxious and worried. The human bodymind is beautifully primed for survival. In this type of situation, the nervous system is being constantly being primed at an unconscious level for the stress response. Simple touch interrupts the stress feedback system and helps the stress system to settle, soothing feelings of anxiety.

As for babies, we all know that touch, Vitamin T, is necessary for proper growth on all levels: emotional, psychological, physical. Neglected, untouched babies and children deeply suffer emotionally and even fail to thrive physically.

Kangaroo care is pretty much a standard of care practice in NICUs across the world. Kangaroo care is the practice of restful skin-to-skin contact with your diapered infant. The baby rests between the mother’s breasts or on the father’s chest, with a blanket over his back. Research shows that kangaroo care ensures the infant is warmed properly – better than in an incubator. And the infant experiences the all-important developmental aspect of the feedback loop of psycho-biological regulation between parent and baby.

In fact, touch is so crucial to premature babies that scientists studied the effects of kangaroo care over ten years. Dr. Ruth Feldman of Bar-Ilan University, and her colleagues followed 73 mother-infant pairs for a decade. 73 mother-infant pairs who had used kangaroo care for one hour a day for two weeks were followed for 10 years. The researchers compared this group to 73 infants who had received standard incubator care. A decade later, the kangaroo care seemed to positively enhance brain development in a lasting way. The children who had received kangaroo care had better sleeping patterns, more regulated responses to stress via the neuro-endocrine system and the autonomic nervous system and better cognitive control.

So, be aware of the power you already have to positively your baby in the NICU and your partner! BirthTouch® Healing for Parents in the NICU is now available. It’s a short, practical, self-help guide to safe touch for healing during that painful time while your infant is in the NICU. Extended families and NICU staff can also use this simple routine and information.

It might be hard to think about self-care during difficult times, but it’s ok to sometimes take a natural break from the stress and sadness and refill your reserves with some self-care.

Practice extreme self-care with soothing therapeutic touch. It is an inexpensive, time-saving way for families to help build trust, safety and bonding with each other.


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