Though medical science has made great strides in premature baby care and survival rates, it has been unable to reduce the rate of premature births. Since premature birth is such a common phenomenon, it is important to know what to expect and what to do if your baby is born prematurely, i.e. before 37 weeks gestation.
Premature baby care
Regulation of body temperature and normal breathing can be difficult for a premature neonate because the lungs and other body organs may not have had time to mature fully. So a premature baby will usually require a stay at the neonatal intensive care unit in hospital in an incubator or warmer.
While oxygen supplementation, ventilation support, and medications may be administered by the hospital, kangaroo care is one of the natural ways recommended to care for premature infants. The mother (or father) can administer kangaroo care by holding the baby close to her own skin.
The skin to skin warming is known to help premature baby development by regulating the baby’s body temperature. It is also known to lower the rate of certain infections and illnesses and improve chances of survival. This method was developed for areas where incubators may not be available or reliable, but it is a method that is also used increasingly in developed areas. It may also help to begin and establish breastfeeding.
Once home, a premature baby will still need special care. Breastfeeding is highly recommended. Keep your baby warm by co-sleeping or keeping baby’s crib right next to you. A premature baby may need more than usual monitoring. It may be best to limit baby’s exposure to visitors in order to control and prevent infection.
The rule of thumb with premature babies is that you should expect them to reach milestones not as per their actual birth date but according to the estimated date they would have been born had they been carried to term. Pediatricians recommend that a premature baby’s age be adjusted and milestones expected accordingly.
So if a baby is born 2 months prior to her estimated due date, she will sit up unaided between 6 and 9 months (as against 4 to 7 months as in the case of full term babies). Also remember that the range of ‘normal’ is rather wide.
If however you are still concerned about your premature baby achieving his or her milestones, you should speak to your healthcare provider to see if there is any requirement for early interventional services.