Closeness between small children and parents – why skin contact?

Kerstin Hedberg Nyqvist, paediatric nurse, Associate Professor, Uppsala University

Developmental, family-centred care in accordance with NIDCAP

Babies who are born prematurely, before 37 full pregnancy weeks, and sick newborns need hospital care for varying amounts of time. These babies are sensitive in the way they experience their immediate environment and care. They are easily disturbed by what is going on around them and have less strength to hold their body in a comfortable position. At the same time their signals regarding what they want, what they are happy or not happy with, may be not so clear.

In order to make it easier for personnel and parents to perceive and interpret the baby’s signals the psychologist Als in the USA has developed a method, Newborn Developmental Care and Assessment Program (NIDCAP). This helps parents and personnel to plan the baby’s care and environment more easily, as well as their time together with the baby on the basis of what the baby communicates. This is facilitated by the closeness between the baby and the parent – the best thing is when the baby can be in the parent’s embrace. The carrying devices have an important function here.

Follow-up studies have shown several advantages for children cared for according to NIDCAP. The closeness makes it easier for the mother/father to perceive, for example, whether the child is waking up and wants to feed, or whether it is anxious and needs help to settle down. This means that you feel more secure as a parent.