Expert Advice

What To Know About Your Premature Baby

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Floating in an amniotic sea isn’t a vacation for baby—it’s their day (and night) job. Every day in utero counts toward building a whole, healthy body that can efficiently survive in the outside world. When the normal 37-40 weeks of pregnancy are unexpectedly cut short, your premature baby may need a lot of help once she’s born.

Anyone can give birth prematurely (before 37 weeks gestation), even low-risk healthy women. The rate of premature births in the US is currently 1 in every 10 births. And 50% of these babies are born to women with no risks, indicators, or family history.

Unless you or your family has a history of giving birth prematurely, it can be difficult to plan for either the birth or the exceptional needs of your preemie. Your birth plans could just go flying into oncoming traffic as you rush to the hospital.

Preemies range in age from oh-so-early to only-needed-one-more-week in utero. Very early preemies are delicate, fragile people who need a ton of care so they can finish growing enough to go home with you.

But knowledge is power, and knowing what could happen with your preemie is one way to decide how you’ll handle it.

What To Know About Your Premature Baby - Best Ever Baby - besteverbaby - birth plan - Content by SP Turgon, Certified Labor Doula and Certified Ghostwriter

When baby is premature, your touch, smell, and voice in NICU are important to reminding her she’s not alone

Let’s look at the most common issues premature babies have:

 

  • Brain development

Being born before she’s ready means your baby could struggle with intellectual and developmental disabilities. She could:

  1. Physically develop more slowly or not meet age-appropriate milestones
  2. Have learning difficulties
  3. Struggle with communication
  4. Need help getting along with others
  5. Require help taking care of herself
  6. Have lifelong disabilities due to incomplete brain development that include behavior problems (like ADHD or anxiety), neurological disorders like cerebral palsy, or cause autism.

What you can do:

Talk and sing with your baby to stimulate her brain and increase your bond together. At first, you may have to do this through the incubator, but soon you’ll be able to hold her in the NICU.

  • Lungs 

Take a long time to fully develop and premature babies often struggle with breathing. Some will develop lifelong asthma or bronchopulmonary dyplasia (BPD) that inflames or irritates the lungs. Most babies recover from BPD, but it may cause lifelong respiratory issues.

What you can do :

When she’s able to be held, put her to your chest (skin to skin, if possible) so she feels your breathing. Skin to skin contact (STS) reassures her, helps her relax, and keeps her warm— all of which reduces stress and helps stabilize her.

  • Intestinal development

Incomplete and inefficient intestines can lead to intestinal problems that leave scars and affect baby’s ability to get full nourishment from her food.

What you can do:

Give her breastmilk once she’s able to take it, even if it’s only drops. The first few drops of colostrum you produce are nutrient-packed and easily digestible. If she’s too premature to nurse, pump your milk and take it to the NICU in well-labeled bags (we’ve got a checklist for you). This keeps up your milk production and assures your breastmilk is available as soon as baby is ready.

  • Infections

Are common problems for preemies because their immune systems are weak.

What you can do:

Soothing your baby with skin to skin (STS) contact helps her relax and promotes a healthy immune system. Using chemical-free products eliminates a lot of chemical exposure that could challenge her ability to fight off infection.

  • Vision

Some premature babies have vision problems that may be lifelong, or may develop retinopathy of prematurity (ROP).

What you can do:

Talk to and soothe her so she knows where you are. If her vision is heavily impacted, your voice, smell, and touch mean even more to her sense of security.

  • Hearing

Hearing deficit or loss is common in premature babies

What you can do:

Newborn babies need eye contact, but your premature darling may not be able to do that right away. Your touch, smell, and heartbeat all matter to a feeling of safety and peace that reduces stress and promotes growth.

  • Dental problems

Are common. Some preemies have delayed tooth growth, changes in tooth color, or have teeth that are wrongly placed

What you can do:

Good dental practices begin as early as baby’s first bite of food. Even before that you can wipe her gums with moist gauze or your finger to familiarize her with the sensation of dental care. Once she’s eating you can use a finger brush to begin teaching her how to care for her teeth.

  • Skin issues

Her skin is your baby’s largest organ and plays an important part in protecting her from disease, bacteria, toxins, and maintaining a healthy body temperature. Premature babies’ skin still needs time to develop in order to carry out these functions.

What you can do:

As soon as baby can manage being outside her incubator, STS contact with you is one of the best things for her.

Some of these issues may need immediate attention in NICU and some may emerge later as your baby grows. Her healthcare provider and the dedicated caregivers in NICU can answer a lot of your questions, refer you to resources, and give you tools to use.

If premature birth is a possibility when you go down your hospital bag checklist to pack your birth bag, why not include an extra outfit for yourself, in case you need to stay longer than anticipated.

Premature birth usually means your tiny baby isn’t fully ready to manage life outside the womb and will be staying in NICU for a while. The more you understand what’s happening and what she needs, the more you can help her — and the sooner you both can go home.

 

To learn more about birth preparation, download our free Birth Plan eBook now. After three years of research, collaboration with more than 100 childbirth experts and resource centers from Healthy Child Healthy World to the American Association of Neonatal Nurses, the Best Ever Baby Birth Plan Guide is available for a free download.

This new resource for pregnant families is a compilation of top tips and advice from more than 20 nationally-recognized experts in the field including renowned pediatrician, Dr. Alan Greene and GraceFull Birthing founder, midwife Elizabeth Bachner. These trusted experts offer thoughtful guidance for whatever type of birthing experience parents want, in whichever setting they choose.

Published: December 26, 2017 | By SP Turgon, Certified Labor Doula | Reviewed by: The Best Ever Baby Expert Team | Last reviewed: December, 2017 

Sabriga TurgonWhat To Know About Your Premature Baby

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