Play Mind to Mind Games With Your Preemie

Preemies and infants are bored.  Forget the American adult  bias that infants are blank slates.  They are thinking and problem solving, just as we all do, with all the assessment skills and conclusions we have and probably more because theirs is pure and without the influence, fear and worry acquired during childhood.

You can play silent mind games with them and see that this is true.

The first time I posted this design on the outside of the isolette of a baby who was 2 weeks old and now 29 weeks gestation.  She was not supposed to be born for almost 3 months.  I watched  as her eyes outlined each side and compared it to the other, again and again, over and over.  She would just keep doing it and I had to feed the next baby so I began to time her.  Twenty three minutes.

Then after a few days of this, when she was asleep, I rotated the card 1/3 of a turn and stood, waiting for her to wake up.  She opened her eyes, looked at it, frowned, cocked her head, straightened her head, pulled her neck back, pushed her face closer…  the classic ‘double-take’ sequence.  She had immediately identified the problem, checked her facts, verified what she was seeing and accepted it.  She weighed less than 3 pounds.

So I did this for at least a hundred babies over the years.  Stable feeder /grower babies, all with the same results.  The attention span time was from  18 to 26  minutes.

We are all born genius.

Visual Stimulation Cards for Preemies and Infants

All babies, but preemies especially, are inveterate problem solvers and they are bored. Watching the movement of their eyes, gives clues and strong understanding to what their brains are doing as, at first, they seek out bold and well defined shapes. They outline the shape and then begin to compare it’s parts. Within this framework, you can invent games to interest and challenge them.

The second 2 cards, part of the Ross set, were designed by a pediatrician, Dr. julio C. Guerra, and provide preemies with hours of fascination. Watch as the baby outlines each part of the round design and then compares it to the reversed color. Then, when the baby is asleep, turn the card so it’s now slanted and watch his eyes when he wakes and first sees it. We are all born with the same facial expressions and these babies do the classic ‘double take’, frowning, tilting the head, chin out to get closer… Watching hundreds of preemies, (some not supposed to be born for another 3 months). I began to time their concentration and was astonished to find it lasting from 12 to 28 minutes.

Make up your own games with these cards but keep them as simple as you can. Get colored stickers of dots and, while the baby is asleep, put one on the checkerboard card. Later, add another colored dot partially covering the first. Then watch.

It’s important that the cards be positioned straight up and down. Tipping them or turning them to the side will add the element of perspective which would change the experience.

The third and fourth cards below are part of a pack that Ross Labs, makers of Enfamil formulas gave to NICUs long ago. These cards were a huge gift to the  babies, A HUGE GIFT  but were discontinued for some reason.  

Please write to Ross Labs to reinstate their pack of cards, preemies need their intellectual stimulation. They were the very best and should be easily available for all babies.

Why are preemies problem solvers to a greater degree than full term newborns? It’s because they quickly become super alert survivors in extremely complex, annoying and stressful circumstances, and act in their own best interest like all of us, going toward pleasure and away from pain. The full term baby is comforted with basic needs met and soft human connections made and never has to develop skills to mitigate stress.

Open fullsize and print

Open fullsize and print

© Brie Widmeyer, CCRN

Open fullsize and print

Open fullsize and print

© Julio C. Gurrea, MD

A Trick to Teach Your Child Good Behavior

The child has one overriding, driving goal and it’s from the Reptilian Brain survival function.

THE CHILD WANTS TO PLEASE THE PARENT.  Always, every minute and in every way.

The Reptilian Brain needs to get this correct or the child could die and he knows it.  The parents are access to food, water and shelter and without that the child is unable to survive.

Normal parenting in American culture is reactive.  It’s knee-jerk responses to each event with the goal of controlling the child’s behavior.  It’s frequently inconsistent, mostly negative  and with a frustrated attitude that  confuses and worries  the child because he can’t make rational sense of what he’s doing to cause it.

EXAMPLE:  Picking up an infant and comforting him at the peak of his loudest cry teaches him this: Mama likes it when I cry very loudly because she picks me up.  When he’s crying, stand outside of his sight until the crying stops, even if it’s only for a breath, then quickly begin cooing soft words to him and pick him up.

A TRICK:  The job of a parent is to teach their child what is acceptable behavior and what is not and this trick will do that without making the child feel like he’s a bad person.  It will take a few days before it becomes second nature and should begin before the child is about 5.

  • Say:  “Good coming when I call you.”  “Bad throwing your food on the floor.”  “Good brushing your teeth.”   “Bad hitting Mary.”  and so on.
  • These statements should be only the word ‘good’ or ‘bad’ and the most brief description of the action.
  • Anything more causes the child to tune it out.
  • This takes the onus off of the child and gives him a clear indication of what is and what is not acceptable social behavior.
  • It also eliminates control avoidance.
  • You will have a happy an obedient child.

Our inclination is to say ‘Good boy.’ or ‘Bad boy.’

Saying ‘Bad boy.’ the child is devastated.

Saying ‘Good boy.’ the child thinks:  “But I wasn’t good last week and if she finds out, I’ll be bad boy.”

Pacifier for a Weak Chin

The Nuk Sager pacifier was designed as an orthodontic tool to bring an infant’s chin out and it works like magic.  When my children were infants in the 60s, we had to send to Germany for them.  Now they are in your local store.

The strange design brings the bottom jaw out and the curved plastic of the frame seats the pacifier firmly against the mouth as the baby sucks, creating a perfect  system.  This pacifier also brings the bottom jaw and the tongue forward to open the airway for infant stridor… the loud breathing that some newborns with weak chins have.  No other pacifier style brings the jaw forward!

Holding the baby with his head supported and neck straight is also important for keeping his airway open.  

The three women below were born with almost no chin, a characteristic of both sides of the family.  The Nuk Sager pacifier puts strong pressure on the muscles of the jaw, bringing it out in a normal position.


Bedtime Trickery.

A trick to get your children to love their own bed and to stay in it:
Tell them that there is a rule. On Wednesday, (or whatever day you choose) all children will sleep in their own beds.
Then make a big, exciting deal of it. Mark the day on a calendar and check off each day until this ‘special’ day when all children over the age of ….. finally get to sleep in their own beds.
Tell them that many wonderful things happen in their own bed.
Tell them that there will be a surprise for them in their beds on that night.

The surprise is a flashlight (that works) and a book.
Then the rule is that the book and flashlight can only be in their bed at night.

… and of course, play PACIFE Music to Calm