Caring for a Premature Baby: What Parents Need to Know

Caring for a Premature Baby: What Parents Need to Know

June 8, 2023

Things Every Expecting Parent Should Know About Premature Babies

The birth of a child is a joyous time, but if your little one arrives before the 37th week of pregnancy, things can get a little stressful.

No parent gets the chance to be given a heads up about their premature baby so witnessing how different your baby is compared to a full-term baby can throw you off. It can cause so much unwanted stress and anxiety.

Here are some important things you should know about premature babies that might help you handle the situation better if you are expecting a baby, or if a friend or family member is.

What Is a Premature Baby?

A premature baby is born before completing the full term of gestation (period of time between conception and birth), which is typically around 40 weeks (about 9 months). Premature birth occurs when a baby is born before 37 weeks (about 8 and a half months) of pregnancy.

What Should You Know About Premature Babies?

A premature baby does not get enough time in their mother’s womb to develop fully, so they will require special care and monitoring when they’re born.

As mentioned before, they also look and act differently in comparison to a full-term baby. But as time passes, with care and nutrition these differences should become less and less noticeable:

  • The earlier the baby arrives, the smaller they will be, which can make their head appear larger in proportion to their body.
  • The baby will also have lower levels of body fat. Fat under the skin is crucial for generating body heat, which means that premature babies may struggle to maintain their body temperature in normal room conditions. As a result, they are placed in an incubator immediately after birth to provide a controlled and warm environment.
  • Due to the limited amount of fat, their skin may also seem thinner and more translucent, allowing you to see the blood vessels beneath their skin.
  • Their lungs may not have fully developed, resulting in breathing difficulties. For this reason, you may notice these babies crying very softly.
  • They may have very fine hair covering their bodies called lanugo, something which isn’t present in full-term babies.
  • If the baby is born nearly 2 months early, their breathing difficulties can cause serious health problems as other immature organs in their body may not receive enough oxygen. To prevent anything serious, doctors will keep them under close observation with an equipment called cardio-respiratory monitor. The baby may also be provided with special equipment to support their breathing.
  • Premature babies have very low immunity, making them more susceptible to infections and fevers.
  • A premature baby’s features also appear sharper and less rounded. But don’t worry, with time they will begin to resemble a normal full-term baby.

With advancements in medical technology, premature babies can receive the care they need outside their mother’s womb for days, weeks, or even months until the baby is strong enough to sustain themselves without any additional support. So, no need to worry.

Coping with the Emotional Impact and Caring for Your Premature Baby

If your baby is premature, then they may have already been moved to the special-care nursery. This means you may miss out on some cherished moments like holding them, breastfeeding them, observing their breath, and listening to their heartbeat right after delivery.

But while it’s true that you might not have the freedom to hold and touch your baby as much as you’d like, it’s not all bleak and colorless.

  • Even though you may not be able to hold your baby, most intensive care units permit you to touch your baby and engage in skin-to-skin bonding, provided your baby doesn’t require major support. Your doctor and the nurses can help you with the right time for this interaction.
  • You will also soon get an ‘OK’ from your doctor to breastfeed or bottle-feed your baby. Since your baby might have trouble feeding, the nurses will instruct you on proper breastfeeding or bottle-feeding techniques.
  • Some premature babies may initially rely on intravenous fluids, or a feeding tube inserted through their mouth or nose to receive necessary nutrition. Once you’re ready to breastfeed, pump breastmilk to feed your baby through the tube. A mother’s breastmilk is the best possible nutrition any newborn would ever need.
  • In a few days, you will be ready to return home, and you might find it difficult to leave your baby behind in the hospital but remember that your baby is in good hands. During this time, take the opportunity to read more articles, blogs, and books like this one you’re reading right now to better understand your baby and yourself. Connect with other preemie moms and learn from their experiences with their premature babies.
  • Your doctor will soon give you permission to hold and cradle your baby.

Once your baby can breathe on their own, maintain their body temperature, feed on breastmilk or formula-milk, and steadily gain weight, the day will finally come to take them home.

Make sure you stock up on everything your little one might need – like teeny tiny socks, caps, chew toys, newborn diapers, etc. Snuggy Diapers for Newborns are carefully crafted to offer unmatched comfort, protection, and reliability, ensuring the utmost care for your baby’s delicate skin. Additionally, they are equipped to keep up with the needs of a newborn baby with its navel protection feature which lets your baby’s umbilical cord stump dry and fall off speedily by exposing it to fresh air.

In some cases, you might have to bring some equipment back home with you, make sure you know how to operate it. Things can be challenging at first, but soon enough, your baby will catch up to their full-term counterparts. Until then, take care!

Frequently Asked Questions

What are some premature baby’s problems later in life?
The problems premature babies may face later in life can vary depending on the severity of their prematurity and any other health complications. Some common issues include:

  • Developmental delays
  • Learning difficulties
  • Vision problems
  • Hearing problems

Respiratory issues, etc.

What is a premature baby’s survival rate?

The survival rate of premature babies is affected by many factors, including gestational age (week of pregnancy) at birth, birth weight, and the presence of any complications. But according to gestational age:

  • 22 weeks is close to 10% chance of survival
  • 24 weeks is close to 60%
  • 28 weeks is around 90%
  • 31 weeks is around 95%
  • 34 to 36 weeks is nearly 100%!
When is a premature baby out of danger?

Once the premature baby can breathe on their own, maintain their body temperature, are able to feed from breast or bottle, and are gaining weight steadily, they can be safely considered out of danger.

How to increase the weight of premature babies?

To help increase the weight of premature babies, follow these tips:

  • Feed breast milk or formula milk as advised by your baby’s doctor.
  • Adjust feeding techniques based on your baby’s hunger cues.
  • Consider fortified feedings (adding extra nutrients to the food)
  • Practice skin-to-skin contact for bonding and weight gain.
  • Monitor growth with your baby’s doctor.
When do premature babies start to see?

Premature babies generally start to develop their vision within a few weeks to a couple of months after birth. The exact timing can vary depending on the individual baby and their specific gestational age (week of pregnancy).

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