Sheri is spending her first Mother’s Day in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at McMaster Children’s Hospital with her daughter Jayden. Born 15 weeks premature on April 24th, Jayden weighs just one pound, six ounces. The NICU isn’t where Sheri envisioned spending her first holiday as a mom, but she’s focused on bonding with her daughter. She’s enjoying ‘Kangaroo time’ with Jayden—it’s a chance for them to connect skin-to-skin, which has many benefits for both parents and their babies.
“I love it. It feels nice that I get to have her on me and be close to her,” Sheri says. “She’s way more calm and she seems to be happy when she’s on my skin.”
“Mother’s Day in the NICU is no different, however our NICU mamas are in a unique circumstance.”
Staff in the NICU promote skin-to-skin contact because it helps to regulate babies’ vital signs and gives parents a sense of purpose and normalcy in a challenging hospital environment. On Mother’s Day, that normalcy is even more important.
“Mother’s Day is all about recognizing and celebrating the limitless love and kindness that a mother gives day after day,” says Ashley Crawford, a registered nurse in the NICU. “Mother’s Day in the NICU is no different, however our NICU mamas are in a unique circumstance as they celebrate in the NICU. Mothers who have babies in the NICU are fiercely dedicated to their little ones.”
Crawford says that skin-to-skin contact helps NICU moms feel less helpless. There is a lot of uncertainty in the NICU, and parents can’t do all the things they would with their baby at home. Skin-to-skin lets them bond with their baby and contribute to their well-being.
“It makes me feel more involved. Otherwise, you can feel pretty helpless.”
Nicole tries to spend at least a couple hours skin-to-skin every day with her eight day old daughter, Jocelyn.
“It’s one of the only things I can do so it’s a high priority,” Nicole says. “It calms her right down. She doesn’t move, her heartrate steadies and her oxygen levels go up. It makes me feel more involved. Otherwise, you can feel pretty helpless.”
Nicole and Sheri both feel mixed about spending Mother’s Day in the NICU, but they’re glad to be close to their tiny little girls.
To help recognize Mother’s Day on the unit, Crawford made special cards for each baby to share with their mom. She says it’s a small way she can help families celebrate an important milestone in a difficult circumstance.
“For some of these families, they’re taking things day by day, even hour by hour, so it’s important for us to pause and take time to recognize this day,” Crawford says. “These moms are relentlessly selfless and nurturing beyond words. It’s a privilege for us to celebrate them with cuddles, crafts and a whole lot of love.”