Hey everybody! Jenna and I are in Indianapolis visiting wonderful friends and having a great time. We attended the Obama rally last Thursday (more details coming in tomorrow’s post), and we’re trying to squeeze in as much fun and relaxation as we can. Today we visited the Children’s Museum and walked through the “Haunted House” exhibit during “friendly” hours. Tomorrow, we’ll attend Zoo Boo with Jenna and her friend E in costume, so I’ll take lots of pictures. In the interest of time with friends and relaxation, I’m posting a “rerun” of a Special Needs Sunday that was originally up when my blog began back in June and three people were reading it (thanks Mom, Dad and Sis!). If you’ve already seen it, sorry for boring you, but come back tomorrow for something fresh and exciting (with pictures!). In the meantime, don’t forget to enter my two giveaways here and here.
Photo by Hryckowian
Parents who have had a child in the NICU have probably been taught about hand-swaddling. That’s where we learned a technique that still serves us well today with Jenna, who’s now 2. Hand-swaddling (sometimes called “facilitated tucking”) is especially recommended for premature or very low birth weight babies because, for these babies, the touching, stroking and patting that adults naturally tend to resort to with little ones can be over-stimulating, disturbing and uncomfortable. To hand-swaddle, you gently place one warm hand on the baby’s head while the other warm hand gently cups their feet while guiding them into a flexed, “fetal” position. You simply stand still and “cradle” them this way, and can usually watch them visibly calm and relax.
An MCN, American Journal of Maternal Child Nursing study titled: “The Efficacy of Facilitated Tucking for Relieving Procedural Pain of Endotracheal Suctioning in Very Low Birthweight Infants” found that:
Facilitated tucking (hand-swaddling) is a developmentally sensitive, nonpharmacological comfort measure that can relieve procedural pain in VLBW infants.
Did you get that? In plain English, hand-swaddling is a non-invasive, drug-free way to relieve pain and provide comfort!! The fact that it works was no surprise to me, but the “scientist” in me was glad to find objective data that supported it. I remember standing by Jenna’s NICU cradle MANY times practicing this and watching it miraculously work. I always tried to relax myself at the same time, figuring any tension I had would transfer and essentially negate the whole purpose of the exercise if I didn’t. I practiced deep breathing and tried to clear my mind while focusing on positive thoughts and peacefulness. Every time, I felt better and I could see and feel her relax too. It was good for both of us!
Now, there are nights or naps when Jenna just can’t seem to settle. She’s restless and/or fussy and can’t seem to stop wiggling. She actually ASKS us to hand-swaddle her by saying, “Hold me still, Mommy (or Daddy)” and we watch it work its magic. Tonight was one of those nights, and it made me think of this topic for a post. We’ve altered the technique a bit since she’s now much larger, but it’s essentially the same. We position her on her side and gently place one of our hands across her upper back/neck/shoulder area while the other hand gently “cups” her lower legs that we curl toward her stomach in a flexed, “fetal” position. It still works. I’m not sure if it’s still the positioning that does the trick or if it’s now a learned response that she’s associated with happy and relaxing experiences from the past. It doesn’t matter, because it works. And I still think it’s good for both of us. I feel myself unwind and let go of the day’s “ugly” stuff to focus on the peacefulness and love in the moment. Pure magic.
We use the technique less and less as she gets older. She’s usually able to calm and soothe herself now. But on those rare and restless nights when we might otherwise be pulling out our hair, it’s nice to have a little magic to fall back on. Thank you NICU nurses.
And if any nurses out there are reading this, KNOW that you make a difference. You’re touching lives in ways that will always be remembered. To Mary, Gina, Missy, “Smiley,” Renee, Michele, Kristen, Janice, Cindy, Erin, Brenda and Stephanie: we remember you and (most of) what you taught us (2 YEARS LATER!), and we love you for the way that you treated us like family and loved our daughter.