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How Tender Touch Helps Your Preemie

YOU are your preemie's anchor while she's in NICU, growing strong enough to come home and join the family. Your presence and touch lowers her stress—a key factor in her growth and development.

Delicate preemie babies—those born before 37 weeks gestation—need as much help as possible to survive and catch up.

Tender touch and skincare helps your preemie become her strongest. 

Suddenly becoming the parent of a preemie means you have to rally your resilience, your partner and family bond, and your own self-care to manage this intense new situation. 

You may feel everything from relief to despair to hope...and every one of those powerful emotions are normal, natural, and expected.  

For some parents, it’s hard to even remember the birth.

For many parents, the long-awaited birth was probably not the one you imagined, and even less the one you planned for. Your baby may have been whisked away to NICU before you even got to look into his eyes. 

So when you get to his incubator in the NICU, your first sight of your child could be of him hooked up, with needles and tubes, maybe with his eyes shielded from the light...and the sight of you.

Depending on how premature he was, this tiny person you're waiting to take home may be far from the image of the pink newborns you expected. 

Preemies are undeveloped, so even though they're now in an earthly air environment, they can look like an other-world being: their skin can be dark and wrinkled; they're covered with lanugo—a fine downy hair that protects in water; they're so tiny; they probably don't interact. 

You can feel both scared and excited—excited to be with him, but scared to hurt him by passing on infection or interfering with his care.

And your partner, who may have felt powerless during the sudden birth drama, can feel the same as well as wonder what their role is or whether they have a place in care or decision-making. 

And each of you may deal with all of this differently.


 Touchy Time

What preemies need most is time and mom. Depending on how early she was born, even your voice may be overstimulating. She may not be able to be touched at first because her skin is so thin it can be damaged.

But your presence and your scent can reassure her. 

When her skin is thick enough, you can touch her feet, back, hand, or head. By now she's strong enough to deal with stimulation from talking. Now is the time every parent has a role in bonding, strengthening, and healing. 

Touch connects you to baby, and baby to you. Now that she's capable, she will long for your gentle touch. Research shows that a parent's loving touch helps a preemie

●  lowers heart rate
●  lowers blood pressure
●  lowers cortisol (stress hormone) level
●  raises the level of our feel-good hormone (oxytocin)
●  helps create touch memories
●  increases weight gain by 47%
●  increases motor skills
●  helps preemies move more easily between different “states”—quiet sleep, active sleep, drowsy, quiet alert, active alert, crying
●  helps preemies “orient” – turn toward a stimulus like touch or sound
●  helps preemies be more awake and active
●  helps preemies deal better with the pain of needles and procedures in NICU
●  helps preemies deal with normal activities without becoming stressed (​habituation​)
●  helps preemies learn about their bodies and where they are in space 
●  helps preemies learn about the person giving them their massage – you!

    Even in tests done 6-12 months later, such positive results from caring touch showed these premature infants still measured above their peers who were not frequently touched.

     The baby care products used in the NICU may not be the best support for your little one at this vulnerable time.

    Every nurse, doctor, and attendant wants their babies in NICU to go home as soon as possible. But the products commonly used are often full of chemicals that help absorption, give a nice scent, or preserve the product's stability.

    That's great for strong adults, but these chemicals can be toxic to the still-developing biology of vulnerable babies.

    Manufacturers don’t have to claim everything they put in these products—including and especially, artificial fragrances— so we cannot know for sure how safe they are.

    Chemicals that make her smell sweet as bubblegum easily pass through her thin skin and can disrupt her still-developing

    • hormone balance
    • digestion
    • immune system
    • nervous system
    • brain
    • essential pH balance of the skin that protects her

    That’s Where You Come In

    Knowing what you can do to uplift and protect your little one helps increase your confidence as a parent to support your baby’s health. 

    Using organic-based skincare products not only nurtures through your touch as you apply them, they can help increase your preemie’s health with each pat or stroke of your hand. 

    Products like BEB Organics made with pure essential oils help avoid negative effects from chemicals.

    Such products not only clean, calm, and soothe in the gentlest and healthiest of ways, their ingredients can also help manage infection, inflammation, or dryness. 

    While Your Baby’s In NICU

    Amidst the noise of machines and attendants, your voice is the one that calms your wee one. Your scent is the one he knows. Your touch is what he longs for most because it makes him feel better

    You and the NICU nurses are a team. The rule of thumb is: ALWAYS ASK. The other rule of thumb is: YOUR INTUITION MATTERS. 

    Ask them when your little one is ready for you to bring in your own skincare products and: 

    • Wear pure essential oils that signal “Mommy’s here” 

    Babies are amazing and respond to their mother's scent. Mom’s scent on her clothing (some hospitals allow a piece of mom’s clothing in preemie incubators or bassinets) has shown to calm a crying baby.

    Let's remember, too, that studies show mothers can identify their baby by smell within a couple of days after birth.

    Scents matter, so use ones made from pure ingredients that also help soothe and calm.  A small drop of soothing essential oil (orange, chamomile, rose) on your wrist or hands combines your personal scent with one that helps stress reduction to help your preemie's growth and development. 

    When you use fragrance-free skincare for yourself – like our ​BEB Organic products – the smell won’t interfere with the calming scent of your own body. Certain ingredients, like pure organic rose oil may leave a light smell that mingles with your own, helping reduce your stress and increase relaxation.

    But, be careful! Even the healthiest smells aren’t helpful if you introduce too many, too soon. And for preemies, that’s often the case until they’ve grown a lot more.

      •  Apply natural lotions

      When you are in NICU, silky organic lotions help keep skin from drying out (baby’s and yours). Such lotions and creams provide nutrients along with your loving touch, bringing you closer while supporting her growth. 
        • Use bathtime products that keep chemicals away

        An organic baby wash will prevent chemicals from soaking into your baby’s porous skin, but still keep him smelling “fresh as a baby.”

        Soothing scents, gentle cleansing, and pH-balanced organic washes protect his largest organ—his skin. Vibrant skin–even while it’s still developing—protects him from outside toxins while it works to control his internal body temperature.


        5 Top Tips For Enhancing Preemie Health That Both Parents Can Do 

        1. Therapeutic Touch

        Hold your baby’s head and feet while applying a gentle pressure to help her feel quietly contained. Preemies who were held 
            • Lowered their breathing and heart rates
            • Slept better
            • Improved their coordination for breathing, sucking, and swallowing
            • Increased their ability to engage with their environment 
          1. Kangaroo Care (skin-to-skin time)

          Get as much bare skin connection as you can by putting your diapered but not dressed baby against your bare chest. All babies benefit from this, but for preemies, skin-to-skin time (STS) matters even more because STS  
            • Benefits continue once you go home
            • Enhances breastfeeding
            • May contribute to brain development
            • Infuses baby’s microbiome with mom’s protective bacteria
            • Stabilizes breathing and heart rates
            • Improves oxygen saturation rates
            • Helps regulate baby’s body temperature
            • Conserves baby’s calories and promotes growth 
          1. Bathtime Wash  

          Good skin hygiene and cleanliness promote health. Bathtime can be the blissful moment he returns to the soft water world he knew in the womb. Using gentle washes scented with essential oils instead of synthetic fragrances clean without toxic chemicals that challenge his delicate baby body. 
          1. Skin Creams

          Brand new baby skin is still adjusting to the air environment and can become dry, uncomfortable, and lowers the skin’s ability to protect. Thin and porous baby skin is vulnerable to anything you put on it. Soothe your little one and protect her at the same time by only using moisturizers that are organic-based and scented with essential oil. The added benefit? Essential oils in the cream can also calm her…and you. 
          1. Diapers and Rash Prevention

          Because preemie skin is so thin and sensitive, it is more vulnerable to rashes, including diaper rash. Choose a diaper balm that is thick enough to be protective, soft enough to spread without damaging delicate skin, and made with organic ingredients that feed the skin while soothing it.

          When we give love to others, we also give it to ourselves.

          As you sit with your baby, try to remember to breathe in hope with each inhale, and breathe out fear on the exhale.  

          Each time you apply healthy products on your baby, you’re also applying them to yourself and supporting healing from birth.

          The encouraging words you whisper into the incubator are also going into your brain…let them soothe you.  

          As mom, your body is trying to heal from a birth that you probably didn’t expect, and healing takes time.

          Partners are trying to recover from a difficult birth where they may have felt helpless, and now have the added responsibilities of caring for the family. 

          Even with the need to be with your baby in the hospital, you must get rest and nutrition. 

          Your entire family needs some rest, peace, food, and laughter to lighten the burden and increase personal fortitude, and every family can decide how they do that best.



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