Sometimes Touch Can Be Stressful
In the NNU, every effort is made to prevent sensory overload from things like too much light, noise, or even touch. Sensory overload can be a source of stress for babies, in particular for small low birth weight babies. Very preterm babies do not like being stroked, or even touched, as it can be too stressful and stimulatin for them, as their skin is so thin. They will, however, recognise your voice and will find you gently speaking to be a source of comfort.
As your baby grows, they will become ready for contact from you. For very young and highly sensitive babies, still and containment holding is the most appropriate. Your baby may like you to hold their hand or foot. The nursing staff will encourage you to touch and hold your baby as soon as it’s appropriate. In addition, and unlike full-term babies, premature babies can only tolerate one form of interaction at a time (either touch or voice, not both).
If they have two forms of interactions too soon, it can mean too much stimulation and be stressful for your baby. Your baby’s nurse will guide you to give the most appropriate positive touch to meet your baby’s needs. Kangaroo care and baby massage become more appropriate as your baby gets stronger.