Reading to Your Baby in the Neonatal Unit

Having a baby in a neonatal unit is a stressful and emotional time that can make parents feel overwhelmed. The time you spend at their bedside really does make a crucial difference to your baby’s experience and their long-term development. Talking, reading and singing to your baby will comfort and soothe them. It will also help them relax and build their bond with you. It may not seem as important as the medical care, but it is, and it is something you will do best.

How does it help your baby?

  • From the 22nd week of pregnancy your baby can hear in the womb. They can recognise and respond to your voice. Hearing you just as they would if they were still inside will calm and reassure them, and help them feel secure in their new world.
  • When you’re not able to hold them, your voice lets them know that you are there.
  • It makes a difference in the long-term too. It may sound unlikely, but the words they hear now will help your baby’s brain and language development in the future. The more words they hear, the better.

It has benefits for you too. Reading stories or singing lullabies gives you a chance to escape into another world – getting a glimpse of life beyond the screens and incubators. It’s also a great way to distract yourself from watching the monitors and alarms so might help you feel calmer too.

Nervous?  Here are a few tips:

  • Don’t worry about other people listening – the unit is pretty busy and no-one is watching!
  • Babies like repetition. They will love hearing the same story over again.
  • Try longer stories – it can be a long day in the unit and it’s good to try something you’ll enjoy too. It doesn’t matter what you read – it’s your voice your baby is interested in.
  • Get brothers and sisters reading too. This gives them an important job to do during a visit and it helps them to bond too.
  • Watch for your baby’s cues. You’ll know best when they are getting tired and need a break, and it probably means you do too.
  • Keep it up when you get home. It’ll still be a special moment to settle down and enjoy being together.