Photo by Gray Benko
Taking care of a full term infant causes every parent’s worry to shoot up, but caring for your premature newborn takes the anxiety to a whole new level. That’s understandable; I believe that we can safely sum up in one word our collective notion of a premature newborn to this: extra. Premature newborns are extra fragile, extra small, and extra prone to sickness that is why they need extra attention, extra caring, and extra time.
Before we delve further into the proper way of caring for a preemie, we have to first understand what a preterm infant is. A premature newborn is defined as a live-born infant born before the 37th week of pregnancy. A weight of less than 5 lb 8 oz. is another criterion used to classify the newborn as preterm. The aforementioned weight is different from SGA (Small for Gestational Age) babies. They are not rooted from the same condition; therefore, the approach in terms of medical care is different.
Let’s now go to the ways on how you can take care of your premature newborn at home.
Ensure Good Breathing
Premature infants are highly prone to Respiratory Distress Syndrome because their lungs are not yet fully mature. To determine this, lecithin–sphingomyelin ratio test is done. A score above 2 indicates lung maturity. Preemies often get less than this. Observe your infant closely after feeding to make sure that their filled stomach is not causing any breathing difficulties.
Apnea is common in preterm infants. True apnea is more than a 20-second pause in breathing. To avoid an apnea episode, maintain a constant temperature in the baby’s environment and handle the baby with extra care to avoid stress and fatigue.
Babies who are born before 32 weeks have difficulty in sucking and swallowing, so it’s very important to use extra care when feeding them. If you’ve chosen to bottle feed (either with expressed breast milk or formula) your newborn, use a small bottle with softer nipples with the slowest flow so as not to cause choking. Offering a pacifier can also strengthen their sucking reflex.
Keeping Them Warm
Preemies have extreme difficulty in maintaining body temperature because they have a large surface per kilogram of body weight. Another reason for this is the lack of brown fat – a tissue needed to maintain body temperature. They cannot also shiver, which is a good mechanism to increase body temperature. Keep them warm through proper swaddling, sheltering them from a cold environment, and the Kangaroo Care. The latter is the skin-to-skin contact of the parent and the newborn to provide warmth and closeness.
Your goal once your baby is ok’d to go home by the doctor is to veer him/her away from stress. Yes, babies do experience stress! Premature infants have less body resources that is why they’re more prone to stress – physiologic and psychological.
Preemies reactions to certain stimuli are different due to an immature central nervous system. Given this, you have to make your baby’s surrounding the least traumatic as possible. Use low-key lighting and decrease environmental noise to avoid stressing your baby. Provide good stimulation by playing instrumental music, gentle massage, and touch.
A preemie’s immune defenses are poor as well as her/his skin integrity compared to that of a term newborn. The skin is the first barrier against infection, so it can be a huge dilemma if it is traumatized. To avoid infection, handle your baby with extra care. Make sure that your nails are trimmed well with no sharp protrusions. The linen should be clean, and not used by others. Family members must be free from infection as well. If someone is suffering a cold or cough, do not let the person near the baby. Strict hand washing is, of course, paramount before handling the baby.
My pediatrician says my 6mo needs to be rolling over on his own and that he is “lazy” and needs to be sitting up too. He was born 7 weeks premature. I think he will do it when he is ready. We work on it but he just isn’t doing it yet. Do I really need to push him or is it ok he does when he is ready even if it’s later than other babies?
Okay mommies I’m in serious need of some advice my daughter is 7 weeks old she was born premature and spent 5 weeks in the nicu.. She has been home for almost 2 weeks and she has her days and nights mixed up…she literally sleeps all day and about midnight to 2 am she is wide awake. She doesn’t cry or want anything she just can’t sleep because she’s not tired but I am getting exhausted. I need help now.
So I need some serious advice. My baby was born 4 weeks early, she was a couple of pounds from premature, she has been tiny since day 1…but she is 9 months old and only weighs 16lb 8oz.. She takes 5, 6 oz bottles a day plus 2 food feedings! Should I be worried about her weight? Should I maybe feed her more? Or don’t even worry about it?
Do premature babies reach their milestones later then usual? I had my daughter at 35 weeks and sometimes I feel like she’s not doing some things that she should be doing…she’s 4months now and will be 5 months on the 28th.
My baby is 8 weeks she’s the size of a newborn bc of being premature tho. She has the worst gas and needs to be stimulated every feed to have a bowel movement. The doctor said just add prune juice and gas drops which I have but they aren’t helping. Please help I can’t stand to see her in pain it’s bad enough she has reflux. Need natural way to help…
My baby is 1 month old today. He was 7 weeks premature but I have a question. This week he’s been getting 3 oz at each feeding because he’d act like he was starving. His doctor told me today I need to give him 2 oz every feeding but he cries and cries afterward and acts like he’s still hungry. What do I do?