How To Take Care Of A Preterm Baby

How To Take Care Of A Preterm Baby

16 Mar 2018 | 7 min Read


Author | 1369 Articles

Medically reviewed by

Dr Asha Kalwar

A preterm newborn requires special care, and their needs must meet to ensure normal development. It’s also critical to remember that premature births, including late preterm births, should never be performed for the mother’s or obstetrician’s convenience. Now, let’s understand more about preterm baby care, its characteristics, and how to cope with the stress. Keep on reading to find out.

What Is A Preterm Newborn?

A preterm newborn is a baby born before 37 weeks of pregnancy (from the last periods of the mother) are complete. They are born too soon before the estimated date of birth to equate to a full-term pregnancy. As a result, they are immature (a preterm baby is also known as a premature baby) and require special care and management.

According to the World Health Organization, more than 1 in 10 babies are born prematurely every year worldwide.

Characteristics of Babies Born Premature

While a normal infant weighs around 7 pounds (3.17 kg) at birth, a premature baby may weigh as little as 5 pounds (2.26 kg) or even less. Premature delivery can manifest itself in various ways, from minor signs to more visible consequences. Below are some of the characteristics of babies that are born prematurely.

  • Small size with a large head
  • Fine hair (lanugo) covering much of the body
  • Low body temperature, especially immediately after birth in the delivery room, due to a lack of stored body fat
  • Laboured breathing
  • Lack of reflexes for sucking and swallowing, leading to feeding difficulties

How Your Premature Baby Looks

Premature newborns are tiny. They can sometimes fit in the palm of your hands too! Their skin may seem glossy, transparent, dry, or flaky since it hasn’t fully matured. There may not be enough fat beneath the skin to keep the infant warm. Also, premature newborns’ eyes may be welded shut at first.

How Your Premature Baby Acts

You may notice that your premature kid only cries faintly, if at all, and has respiratory problems, and this is because their respiratory system is still developing.

As other immature organs in your premature baby’s body may not get enough oxygen if he/she is more than two months early, her/him breathing problems might create major health concerns. And finally, if the infant requires breathing, she may be given more oxygen or special equipment such as a ventilator; or another breathing assistance technique known as CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) that is used to support her breathing temporarily.

Preemie Parents: How to Cope with the Stress

To cope with the stress of the situation, here we got you some major tips that might be helpful for you to cope up with the premature baby situation stress.

  • Spend as much as time with the mother
  • You can feed the mother as soon as the doctor asks for it.
  • Fluids may be administered intravenously or through a feeding tube that enters through the mouth or nose into the stomach for certain premature newborns.
  • If your premature infant cannot nurse at the breast, you can pump breast milk and feed it to him or her through a tube or bottle.
  • Touch, hold and cradle your infant as soon as your doctor says it’s OK.

Why Do Preterm Babies Need A Higher Level Of Care?

A preterm newborn is weak, small in size and underdeveloped. Its nutritional and energy requirements are more than a full-term baby. Due to poor health, preterm baby care is at substantial risk of suffering from various infections and health problems.

According to several research studies, serious physical and mental health problems are high in extremely premature babies, the ones that are born between 22 to 26 weeks of pregnancy.

A premature baby needs exceptional care after birth, both in the hospital and after discharge. Taking care of a premature baby at home is difficult without monitoring devices and medical support. Here are some important steps that can help deal with premature baby care at home.

Steps For Premature Infant Care

The premature birth survival rates depend on the level of care taken after the birth of the baby. Maintaining constant body temperature and blood sugar levels, dealing with feeding difficulties; prevention of infections, and breathing difficulties are the four major difficulties in premature baby care.

1. Keep the baby warm

A premature infant is small in size, with very less body fat. The heat that is generated during the production of energy is lost very fast to the surrounding environment. Hence, preterm baby complications can develop hypothermia or reduced body temperature, which if severe, can result in death if severe. Thus, it is essential to keep them covered with soft blankets, etc. to keep them warm.

In neonatal intensive care units (NICU), the baby is kept warm in the incubators. At home, care should be taken that the ambient temperature of the room where the baby spends most of the time is not too warm or cold. Skin-to-skin contact is used to keep the baby warm. The skin-to-skin contact method is also known as ‘Kangaroo mother care”. In this method, the premature baby lies on the mother’s chest under her clothes for long periods of time. The warmth of the mother’s body keeps the baby warm. It is also possible to breastfeed the baby at frequent intervals. The kangaroo mother care also helps in the development of the mother-child bond.

2. Frequent breastfeeding

Weight gain is very crucial for premature baby development. Maintaining the blood glucose levels of a premature baby plays a key role in increasing the premature baby weight. A premature baby is unable to suck breast milk immediately after birth. In the NICU, the baby is provided with expressed breast milk in the NICU by a tube passing through the nose.

At home, the baby may be bottle-fed with expressed breast milk if the baby is still unable to breastfeed. Supplementary milk formulations should be given in addition to breastfeeding as advised by the doctors.

Babies Born Premature

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Breathing difficulties are common in preemies as their lungs are not fully developed. The immature lungs fail to expand after the early birth, due to which a premature baby might not be able to breathe independently. In NICU, oxygen is supplied to the baby through a ventilator, and the baby is discharged from the hospital only when the baby starts breathing independently.
The baby should be made to lie on her back while sleeping at home, and making the baby sleep on the stomach increases the risk of SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome). Blankets, soft toys, pillows, etc. should not be kept in the baby’s crib.
Premature babies with difficulty in breathing or other complications in the lungs can alternatively be placed on their sides while sleeping to help them breathe easily.

4. Avoid infections

The immune system of a preemie is weak. Thus, respiratory infections (viral and bacterial) are commonly seen. Preventing infections is an important aspect of premature baby care.

Breastfeeding helps a lot in building the immunity of preterm baby care. The antibodies present in breast milk help fight infections in a preterm baby.

Avoid touching or carrying the premature baby without washing your hands. Adults other than the mother or the caretaker should restrict from coming in close contact with the premature baby frequently.

5. Avoid smoking inside the house

Vaccination against various diseases also helps develop immunity against preventable diseases. To ensure normal development in later years, prematurely born babies need and deserve a higher level of care, both at the hospital and home.

Hope you found this article helpful. So, don’t forget to share your views on premature birth in the comment sections.

Also read: Weight Gain and Growth for Premature Babies: Facts You Must Know

Explore the entire collection of articles: Preemie Baby

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