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Preparing the Infant for Surgery

Picture of a mother kissing her infant on the forehead

What part about surgery is most stressful for an infant?

Infants are too young to benefit from preoperative planning, education, and explanations. However, recognizing what is stressful to infants can guide you in planning for your baby's surgery. Things that are stressful to infants in the hospital may include the following:

  • Separation from parents
  • Having many different caregivers
  • Seeing strange sights, sounds, and smells
  • New and different routines
  • Interrupted sleep
  • Day and night confusion

How do I prepare my infant for surgery?

  • It is important to keep your baby's routine the same before the day of surgery.
  • Make sure you, your baby, and your family are well rested.
  • Bring your baby's favorite security item and perhaps some soothing music to the hospital. This will help create a more familiar environment for your baby. You may make a tape of your voice reading or singing for the nursing staff to play when you are not there.
  • Let the nursing staff know what your baby's usual schedule is, including sleep patterns and feeding habits.
  • Make plans for at least one parent to be with your baby as much as possible so that he or she will have familiar touch, voice, and smile.
  • The most important part about preparing your infant for surgery is for you to try to remain calm. Your baby will sense if you are frightened or stressed. Be well informed about what to expect on the day of surgery and ask questions to alleviate any fears you might have. Relaxed, nonverbal communication, such as voice, facial expressions, gestures, and body language can give positive assurance to your baby.
  • Be patient with your baby. It is normal for him or her to cry and be fussy during this stressful time. He or she may be very clingy and become hard to comfort and console. Give a lot of love and let your baby know that you will be nearby.
  • The brief period before surgery when the baby cannot eat or drink can be difficult. Plan to distract, rock, walk, and comfort him or her during this time.
  • Remember, too, to take care of yourself. Simplify your life during this time and do not be afraid to ask for help from family and friends. Remaining positive and calm can help reduce your baby's anxiety.

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