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Behavioural Cues

Baby with orogastric tube and oxygen.jpg

All babies have behaviours that tell you what they need. Premature or sick babies do this, too. Observing for cues (signs) can help you to determine appropriate times to handle your baby. By looking at your baby's skin colour, breathing, facial expressions, and movements, you will be able to tell if your baby is satisfied, when they want you to interact with them, and when they need some rest.

Cues that may suggest your baby is content and ready to interact with you include:
  • normal skin colour

  • arms and legs flexed or tucked

  • hand touching their face

  • hand-to-mouth or in mouth

  • sucking

  • looking at you

  • smiling and/or looking relaxed

  • regular breathing rate

  • if your baby is on a monitor, a regular heartbeat

Cues that may suggest your baby is stressed and may be over stimulated include:
  • skin colour changes

  • squirming

  • frantic, disorganised activity

  • arms and legs pushing away

  • arms and legs limp and floppy

  • hiccupping

  • yawning

  • sneezing

  • frowning

  • looking away

What can you do to help your baby?
  • Avoid bright lights and loud noise;

  • Use a soft, quiet voice when talking to your baby;

  • Handle your baby slowly and gently;

  • Help your baby bring their hands close to their face;

  • Help your baby maintain a relaxed, tucked position;

  • Avoid too much stimulation or activity at one time.

If you are not sure if it is a good time to handle your baby, or you would like more support, please speak to your neonatal nurse.

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