Normally, we say "the hen is hatching its eggs".

I am not sure if we can say "The hen is hatching its chick".

A mom, who has a premature baby, needs to hug her baby all the time on her chest.

Can we say "The mom is hatching her premature baby"?

  • 1
    It is an option in places where incubators aren't available, or if the baby is well enough to be with its mother, but still not in full control of its temperature (due to small size rather than any illness) and the psychological benefits to mum and baby are significant.
    – James K
    Commented Mar 26, 2023 at 9:28
  • Mom hatched her eggs!! m.youtube.com/watch?v=Z8fBKTj2V1U
    – user 66974
    Commented Mar 26, 2023 at 9:32
  • @MichaelHarvey, all the time is the best or several hours a day. So, we meed 2 or 3 people to "hatch the baby"
    – Tom
    Commented Mar 26, 2023 at 12:36

3 Answers 3


The technique you are referring to is widely known as 'skin to skin contact', or simply 'skin to skin', and is recommended by many healthcare professionals for a period of time after a baby's birth, including babies born to term. For premature babies, the process is sometimes also referred to as 'kangaroo mother care' because it has some similarities to the way marsupials continue to be incubated after their birth, but this is not as widely known as 'skin to skin'.

The word 'hatching' does mean "to produce young by incubation", and that is technically what is happening here, but the word is not naturally used in connection with humans who are produced by gestation, not incubation. When a baby is born extremely prematurely, it may need to be placed inside a piece of medical aparatus called an incubator, and technically they are being 'incubated', but I've never heard the verb 'incubating' used in connection with a baby undergoing that treatment (and I'm an analyst of medical data) even though it would be correct. To the best of my knowledge, there is no single verb that is commonly used in the way you are asking and to be understood you should ideally rephrase to use the terms in my first paragraph (eg 'the mother is giving skin-to-skin contact to her premature baby').

It is worth noting that 'hatch' is sometimes used very loosely in connection with human births in a humourous way - there is a British saying that refers to the occasions of births, weddings and funerals as 'hatches, matches and dispatches'.

  • 1
    I was born at 28 weeks, and was, at that time, the lightest baby ever born alive (around 1 kg) at King's College hospital in London. At first they told my mother I would not live; then that I was blind. At around 1 year it turned out I could see, but was severely myopic, and I have been wearing glasses since I was 18 months old. I was placed in a 'incubator' (a new thing) for several weeks. Commented Mar 26, 2023 at 10:55
  • Can I use "She is hatching her infant" humorously?
    – Tom
    Commented Mar 26, 2023 at 12:56
  • @tom Humorously, yes. As I mentioned in my last paragraph, it is sometimes used that way. But as with all humour, if you want the joke to land correctly with your audience you need to consider them. Will they understand what you mean? Will they get that it is a joke? Or will they just think you have a poor grasp of English?
    – Astralbee
    Commented Mar 27, 2023 at 7:40

"Hatching" refers to the process by which a chick (or turtle, snake etc) leaves an egg.

The process in which a mother hen warms an egg with her body heat is "brooding". Of course, a bird broods in her nest in order to cause the eggs to hatch (eventually), so brooding is part of the hatching process. You can say "mum has hatched her eggs" to mean "Mum has successfully brooded the eggs and caused them to hatch".

A more technical term is "incubate".

However, these terms are either farmyard or medical words and don't fit the image of a human mother and a premature baby well.

I'd just say that "Mum is cuddling her baby, to keep it warm."

I would only use "hatching" to explain the process to a child who was familiar with hens (or birds and nests generally), but not with premature babies, and who doesn't know the proper words. It is a metaphor which may help to explain to a young child why the baby needs to be cuddling mum all the time (and why, therefore, mum can't cuddle the older child right now)


Can we say "The mom is hatching her premature baby"?

Absolutely not, birds and mammals do not belong to the same class.

Birds lay eggs, and eggs hatch; mammals give birth, and babies are bundled, wrapped, swaddled etc. In the case of very premature babies they are always placed in incubators to help keep them alive. But saying “The mother is incubating her premature baby” would sound callous, clinical, illogical, and perhaps even offensive.

  1. “The baby is in a baby incubator” is acceptable.
  2. For a newborn, one could say: “She's keeping her infant (premature baby) warm
  • Factually incorrect - monotremes are a class of mammal and lay eggs. Echidnas and the platypus belong to this class.
    – Astralbee
    Commented Mar 29, 2023 at 6:29
  • @Astralbee Echidnas and Platypusses how did I forget? So, it's a fact that human babies are hatched because those two unique species are also mammals.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Mar 29, 2023 at 7:15
  • Not at all, but it's a fact that this is an English-language website and you went down the route of talking about science which is a mistake even when it's factually correct. But your assertion of 'absolutely not' on the language front is also a bit dogmatic when British (and Canadian, I've since learned) English speakers do sometimes do refer to births as 'hatches'. I've even found the expression used on the UK parliamentary record.
    – Astralbee
    Commented Mar 29, 2023 at 8:19
  • @Astralbee the "absolutely not"specifically refers to the OP's request: Can we say "The mom is hatching her premature baby"?It's understandable but it is inappropriate. Maybe you found a few wild instances of where hatching was used to refer to premature babies, but in an English language site, I am more concerned whether an expression is commonly used or if it is grammatical.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Mar 29, 2023 at 10:20
  • The OP's sentence is grammatical, but it's an extremely uncommon expression. And suggesting that a non-native speaker could used it humorously is walking on thin ice. Leave that kind of wordplay to advanced learners or native speakers.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Mar 29, 2023 at 10:21

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