When your baby needs to be in the NICU immediatley after birth instead of being in their newly prepared nursery, this can be an emotional time for parents. Some parents feel like they can’t make a connection with their little one while in the hospital. This is a common complaint. However, there are other ways to bond and help your newborn now and in the future. There are many benefits of reading to your baby during and after the NICU.
Give Your Baby a Jumpstart on Brain Development
Critical brain development occurs while a newborn is in the NICU. This includes developing pathways in the brain that control language skills. Infants will respond to frequent auditory experiences even at this early age. It helps to ensure optimal brain development.
In fact, those infants not exposed to language while in the NICU have lower language performance at two years of age.
Other ways reading to newborns benefits your baby:
- Listening and memory skills can increase
- Early language skills are gained by reading to your baby
- Increased reading competency by 3rd grade
Many times a mom cannot hold her baby for weeks. This causes stress for both mom and baby. Even if they are still on monitors, hearing your voice day after day begins the miracle of bonding. Then when you can hold your little one and do skin-to-skin bonding, the baby will already know your voice and be reassured.
Your infant can’t tell you they are scared by all the noise in the hospital, but your presence and the sound of your voice can actually calm your child’s heartbeat.
Benefits for the Parents
Reading to your infant is clearly a positive ritual to begin when they are still in the NICU. At the same time, this is surely beneficial for mom and dad. It is especially soothing for parents with preterm and very sick babies too.
- Reading can help parents deal with the stress of having a sick baby.
- It can become a minute of intimacy even in a crowded noisy NICU.
- When parents feel helpless, reading is something they can contribute.
- Reading gives parents something “normal” to do.
Books that rhyme, poetry, and ones with colorful pictures are valuable when they are infants and when you are home and still reading to your child. Watch their reactions and you will know which books they enjoy most.
Contact Fairfax Neonatal Associates if you have questions or concerns about having a child in the NICU.