How Reading Helped us Bond with our Babies in the Neonatal Unit

I can hardly believe it is nearly a year to the day that we were able to take our son Ryan home from the neonatal unit at the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary. A lot has changed in a year, but one thing that we continue to do is read as a family. Reading has brought us so much joy. I therefore wanted to share with you our story to encourage others to read to their baby, especially if they are in neonatal care.

So where to begin… My husband and I spent over 8 weeks in the neonatal unit at The Edinburgh Royal Infirmary watching over our two beautiful twin boys who decided to make an appearance 10 weeks early. Both weighed less than 3lbs each and were very ill and rushed to intensive care.

Both of our boys would respond when we read to them, even if it was just to open their eyes

I can still remember being wheeled through to see them that first time and feeling completely helpless as I looked at our two tiny bundles of joy through their incubators. Both my husband and I were at a loss as to what to do or say until an amazing doctor suggested that we read to them. The relief this brought us was overwhelming. Both of our boys would respond when we read to them, even if it was just to open their eyes. It also distracted us from the constant beeping of monitors and quickly became our means of escapism for us and our boys.

The time that we spent reading as a family is priceless. It provided us with some of our happiest memories from the unit and has very naturally became part of our daily routine once home with Ryan. Sadly, despite all the efforts of the entire medical team, our son Jack passed away and did not make it home with us.

Given the comfort that reading brought us, we have been working with Scottish Book Trust and have donated 5000 copies of Jack and the Flumflum Tree by Julia Donaldson to neonatal units in Scotland. This book was a firm family favourite for us, and this special edition comes with a message from my husband and myself to other parents about the joy that reading to our babies brought us. Scottish Book Trust have kindly agreed for it to be gifted alongside the Bookbug Baby bags, along with a leaflet on the importance of 'reading to your baby in the neonatal unit' which is being offered for free to all neonatal units across Scotland. I sincerely hope that they all enjoy this book at much as we do.

What’s key is that your baby hears your voice

Whether you are a parent, grandparent, sibling or friend, or even if reading is not your strength, there are plenty of opportunities for you to engage with your baby, whether this be creating your own story, reciting your favourite film (yes – my husband and I managed to recite Top Gun pretty much word for word, to the dismay of the doctors), or getting a sibling to sing a nursery rhyme. What’s key is that your baby hears your voice. This is particularly important in a neonatal unit when the opportunities to hold your baby may be more restricted subject to the care that they require. Reading therefore provides another valuable means of bonding with your baby.


You can find out more about the benefits of reading to your baby in the neonatal unit on the Bookbug webpage. You can also watch a family singing to their baby in the neonatal unit in our Bookbug Song and Rhyme Library.