GROWTH AND DEVELOPMENT
Attachment- This is that strong emotional bond that develops between a parent and their baby. The bond naturally occurs as you respond to your baby’s needs. Participating in your baby’s daily care (feeding, soothing, holding, skin care and bathing) will help you to develop this bond. For your baby this strong attachment helps them to feel secure and loved. When a child feels safe and secure they are able to cope with different situations and feel safe to explore their world.
How do I know my baby is forming a secure attachment? These are some of the early signs that a secure attachment is developing:
- By 4 weeks, (corrected age) your baby will respond to your smile with a facial expression or with movement
- By 3 months, (corrected age) they will smile back at you
- By 4-6 months, they will turn to you and expect you to respond when upset
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Colic and crying- All babies cry, it is the way they can express their needs. Most of the time, babies cry to be fed, changed, cuddled and lastly when they are tired. Every baby is different and some babies cry more than others. This is normal. Usually between 3 and 8 weeks of life babies have a period where they cry more often and are sometimes very difficult to settle. Parents need to find ways to soothe their crying baby. The most important thing to remember is to never shake your baby. If the crying becomes too much you can always lay your baby in their crib and take a few minutes to calm yourself. Remember it is okay to ask for help. Here are some suggestions for trying to soothe your crying baby.
- Check to see if your baby needs something- a diaper change, a feeding, a burp, maybe your baby is too hot or cold or maybe they are getting tired.
- Hold your baby or provide skin-to-skin.
- Provide a calm environment- dim lights, quiet surroundings and some white noise.
- Try a gentle rhythmic motion like rocking or swaying
- Use a soother to provide self-soothing.
- Try a warm bath.
- The 5 “S” for soothing- swaddle, side or stomach hold, shushing sound, gentle swinging motion and sucking.
Preventing flat heads- It is important for the first 6 months of your baby’s life to always place your baby on their back for sleep. Because the bones in the skull are still soft, the back of the head may become a little flattened. This is known as flat head or the medical term is positional plagiocephaly. There are a few ways to help prevent the flattening.
- When putting your baby to bed alternate your baby’s position in the crib. One week lay your baby with their head at the top of the crib and the next week alternate to putting your baby to sleep with her head at the foot of the crib. This will change the area of pressure on the back of the head.
- Place a mobile on the opposite side of the crib. Babies tend to sleep facing the same way. You may want to place a mobile on the other side of the crib to try and encourage your baby to look a different way.
- Provide supervised tummy time for 10-15 minutes, 2 or 3 times a day. This allows your baby to increase the strength in their upper body and practice lifting their head. This is important for your baby’s development.
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Read, speak and sing to your baby- During the first three years of life your baby’s brain will grow faster than at any other time in their life. Your baby knows your voice and the sound of your voice helps to calm and soothe your baby. Reading or singing aloud to your baby has been proven to help build vocabulary and language skills and gives them background information to make sense of what they see, hear and eventually read. This time spent with your baby helps to foster closeness and bonding.
Your baby’s brain: How parents can support health and development- Research has shown us that the greatest period of brain development happens during the first 3 years of life. During this time your baby’s brain is making hundreds of new brain connections every second. Loving and consistent and positive relationships help build healthy brains. Even young children can experience stress when the places they live and play in feel unsafe or frightening. The most important thing is to respond to your baby and build that relationship. Every day you play this game: your baby makes a sound and you respond, your baby cries and you respond by meeting their needs or providing comfort, your baby smiles and you respond with a smile in a loving and consistent way. All of this is important learning for the brain.
Retinopathy of Prematurity (ROP) - happens in premature babies when abnormal blood vessels start to develop at the back of the eye. Not all premature babies have ROP. The risk of ROP also depends on how well the retina is formed.
Checking your baby’s eyes for ROP- A pediatric ophthalmologist will check your baby’s eyes for any abnormal vessels. Your baby will have special eye drops to make the pupils bigger. The drops take at least 30 minutes to work. At the time of the exam your baby will also receive eye drops to numb the surface of the eyeball. The baby should not feel any pain but having a bright light shone in their eyes will make your baby uncomfortable. They may cry during the exam. Following the exam is a good time to have a cuddle
Hearing Screen- All newborns in hospital will get universal hearing screening as part of the Infant Hearing Program. Hearing screening identifies infants who should have more in-depth testing for hearing loss as early as possible. Most babies will pass the newborn hearing screening.
Skin-to-skin/Kangaroo Care- Skin- to- skin care is a way for you to get acquainted with your baby in the NICU. The feeling of your baby’s warm skin against yours is a special closeness and comfort for both of you. Skin- to- skin provides a special time for bonding that only you can experience with your baby. There are many benefits for both your baby and for you as a parent.
Benefits for your baby: stabilizes heart rate, improves self- calming abilities, improves more regular breathing, develops improved sleep patterns, increases weight gain, decreases pain, decreased cortisol level, decreases risk of infection and decreases length of stay.
Benefits for parents: promotes bonding/attachment, increases milk supply, increases confidence in ability to care for baby, decreases cortisol level and increases sense of control.