Our Developmental Support Team of nurses, doctors, nurse practitioners, and developmental therapists will work with you to assure that your baby’s experience is individualized. Research and experience have shown that supporting your baby’s developmental needs allows him to sleep better, cry less, gain weight faster, and go home sooner.
Learning Your Baby's Corrected Gestational Age (CGA)
Babies born early look and behave differently than full-term babies, because their brain, nervous system, and muscles are not fully developed. Unlike some other body systems, the brain of a premature baby cannot “speed-up” its maturity and function at a level beyond the baby’s gestational age. This means it is important to correct or adjust a baby’s developmental age based on how premature he or she is.
To learn your premature baby’s developmental age, take his gestational age at birth (the duration of pregnancy in weeks) and add to it the number of weeks old your baby is at the present time. This number is the Corrected Gestational Age (CGA) or Adjusted Age (AA). For example:
- 30 week gestational age at birth
- + 6 weeks old at present
- = 36 weeks CGA/AA
Babies Born at 32 Weeks or Before
It is not possible for a baby born two months early (32 weeks gestation) to do what a full-term baby (40 weeks gestation) can do. Premature babies usually catch up developmentally within six to 24 months of chronologic age, depending on the severity of both their prematurity and their medical condition.
Babies Born at 37 Weeks or Before
Babies who are born early (before 37 weeks gestation) have immature nervous systems that are easily over-stimulated. We do our best to provide care in clusters to minimize handling and allow your baby to rest as much as possible. Your baby is able to communicate through his or her behavior. We use a developmental plan to individualize care based on these behaviors. Your reassuring touch, familiar voice, and smell are all very important for your baby’s growth and development.
The Power of Touch: Nurturing Techniques
Many new moms and dads feel nervous about touching their baby in the NICU. Our team teaches parents kangaroo care, as well as other nurturing techniques, that allow babies to receive the skin-to-skin contact they need during this fragile time.
Important things to remember while nurturing your baby:
- Be sure to wash your hands before touching your baby.
- Gentle, firm positive pressure is the preferred method of handling your baby. While a full-term baby may enjoy being stroked, this makes a premature infant feel uncomfortable and may cause stress.
- Sometimes your infant may not be able to be held, for a variety of reasons. If your baby is not, you can still provide positive touch to them. Place one hand, using very light pressure, on your baby’s head and gently cup their feet using the other. Be sure to hold still during this and remember: don’t stroke your baby.
- If for some reason your infant is not tolerating touch or is unable to be held, they are still comforted by your voice. It is a soft, soothing and familiar sound. Feel free to quietly talk, sing or read to them
Once an infant is stable and strong enough, they can be swaddled and held in your arms in a wrapped blanket. Premature infants also do not like to be rocked. Their balance is still very immature and it is an unpleasant sensation for them. Holding still and talking to them in a calm and quiet voice is very relaxing for them.
Before kangarooing can begin, your baby’s medical stability will be determined by the bedside nurse and medical team. You or your designated support person must be available for at least 30 minutes and up to several hours to kangaroo. Wearing only a diaper, your baby will be placed on your bare chest, with the baby’s head turned with an ear against your heart. Your shirt or blanket will keep the baby warm and prevent your chest from being exposed.
A nurse will help to carefully settle your baby on your chest. Baby will remain hooked to his or her monitors and equipment. The length of time and the frequency of kangarooing will depend on how long your baby likes it. Your nurse will stop by periodically to assess progress and answer questions.
Benefits of Kangaroo Care:
- Regulated breathing patterns and stable heart rate
- Improved oxygen levels
- Calmer and deeper sleep
- More rapid weight gain
- Earlier discharges
- Thermal synchronization (When the baby’s temperature decreases slightly, mom’s body temperature automatically increases to warm the baby.)