“Kangaroo Care” is the term your NICU used for placing your newborn directly on your chest, face turned to one side, and letting her get the sensory and regulatory benefits that neonatologists believe she can gain from this position.
Then she gets stronger and you all go home. What can you do at home? Well, you could try to keep using this lovely position, but babies start to move, and they want to get up and go. It’s hard to keep them on your chest when they are wiggling around. If she navigated the NICU successfully, this is a wonderful problem to have: she is energetic and active!
Keep the love, warmth and connection going, and give her all the physical benefits of skin contact with infant massage and by placing her on her stomach on your chest while you lie in a partially reclined position, with her trying to look up at you.
Infant massage is easy to learn (I teach it in one or two 50-minute sessions) and it is easy to incorporate into your routines. Even babies with medical issues can handle most of the standard massage moves, and a little goes a long way. I teach unique adaptations for special needs preemies that don’t stress them out.
You won’t be massaging her for more than 10 minutes at first. The effects of touch and movement on your newborn can support growth, sleep and focusing. There have been a few research studies that suggest more specific benefits on health, but the secret is that infant massage is good for you too. It will relax you and build your store of feel-good neurochemicals. How cool is that?
Tummy time for tiny ones isn’t that complicated, but it is a bit different for NICU graduates. You may need to give her some assistance to keep those little elbows directly under her shoulders (they tend to drift out to the sides) . Entertain her with funny faces and (interesting but not overwhelming) sounds from toys or sounds you make, and sing a little. Babies are very forgiving and will tell you with their breathing patterns and muscle tension if you are getting it right. Be positive, even if she is fussing, and be creative.
Tummy time for 45 seconds 10x/day is way better than 3 minutes of crying 3x/day. There is encouraging, and there is pushing. Be the coach she deserves, supporting her with the right moves, right from the start!!