Updated: Nov 14, 2018
Babywearing your premature baby: what it may look like for you and the special considerations and adjustments that are made.
The majority of people who are pregnant and expecting a child, whether it be your first child or your tenth child, go into it generally with the expectation of carrying your baby to term and delivering a healthy baby. What happens however when your baby is born prematurely? Are you still able to baby wear? How can you discuss with your provider about attempting to baby wear? What are the precautions we should be taking? Babywearing is an amazing act available to so many folks. For caregivers of premature babies, it can offer a sense of nurturing while building that special bond with your child, and connecting through kangaroo care (skin to skin).
“Babywearing is an amazing act available to so many folks. For caregivers of premature babies, it can offer a sense of nurturing while building that special bond with your child, and connecting through kangaroo care (skin to skin).”
When you are separated for so long and unable to hold your baby for hours, days and weeks on end there is a yearning for that closeness for both caregiver and baby. Babywearing is a wonderful act to achieve the closeness and comfort without over stimulating your baby. For babies born prematurely, you want to create as much of a warm and comfortable “womb-like” experience as possible, which is why babywearing is such a wonderful thing to do.
How can you approach your babies medical team about babywearing? A helpful resource to start with is always going to be your baby’s nurse. They are the ones monitoring your baby and providing them with all of their bed side care. A great time to discuss it is when they start allowing skin to skin time. You can begin by doing skin to skin and ensuring first and foremost that your baby is able to tolerate the stimulation of being removed from their incubator and onto your chest. Once it’s decided by the medical team that baby is maintaining their vitals you can start by bringing in your freshly laundered carrier. You can also bring positioning cards with you to show to the doctors and nurses. You can discuss with them the T.I.C.K.S. of babywearing and how important it is for the wearer to ensure the carrier is tight and positioned properly, the baby's face is in view at all times, the baby is close enough to kiss, to keep the baby's chin off their chest and so the baby's back is in a position that is comfortable and supported. The first time I was able to put my son in a carrier in the nicu I made sure to have his nurse there as a spotter to keep an eye on him and to be sure he wouldn’t wiggle away or startle too much. She was also there to look at his vitals to be sure that everything still looked okay.
Special considerations are made for our premature little ones. Babies are often below 7 pounds and are attached to cords, wires, tubes and leads. All of these things can be absolutely terrifying for the caregivers initially because they are so small and so fragile and attached to medical equipment. Once they’re snuggled up into their baby carrier however, it all eventually begins to seem far less intimidating to finally be holding your baby.
Selecting the right baby carrier for you and your premature baby is also another crucial step in your babywearing journey. Many carriers on the market have a minimum weight requirement that is above many of the premature babies weights. The best selection in these cases are always going to be a woven wrap or a ring sling. Unlike a stretchy wrap, a woven wrap has no elastic in it. This ensures proper positioning and that tightness is maintained in order to offer proper head, neck and torso support for your preemie. While buckle carriers, stretchy wraps and meh dai carriers are all wonderful and a favorite to many they do not offer the secure snug fit that a premature baby will need in order to keep their airway nice and open and free from body slumping. Woven wraps and ring slings can be worn snug around your baby to be sure they are nice and secure and that nothing is being compromised. This is not to say you will never be able to enjoy these carrier styles, but until your baby is at least to the minimum weight requirement for that specific carrier and is other wise stable, it is best to save these carriers and to try them at a later date with the help of a babywearing educator.
If you or someone you know is currently expecting with the knowledge that baby is going to arrive early, or if you currently have a premature baby, feel free to reach out to one of our wonderful educators for the help, support and guidance to get you started on your baby wearing journey safely with your baby.
By Anne Wetzel