Perhaps the only thing more fragile than a newborn baby is a newborn premature baby – one born approximately between the 24th and 37th week of gestation. Typically, babies under this case are cared for in the hospital’s NICU (neonatal intensive care unit), and as soon as the infant’s free of every potential problem they are sent home.
The baby being born earlier than expected requires a more special care regimen than what normally born babies need. While a good majority of preemies—even the ones born less than two pounds— survive and even thrive, recurrently their parents are just not prepared, despite the doctor’s advice. Conversely, if proper attention is given to the newborn during its early years, then you’re one step closer to the assurance that the child will grow up healthy, with hardly – or better yet – no single trace of premature birth trauma.
Hygiene as a priority
Perhaps the most crucial thing in the care of a pre-term baby would be its hygiene. Premature babies are extremely susceptible to infection, compared to normal babies.
*Babies should be kept in an area where exposure to infection causing elements is evidently low. Their rooms including the items which the infant often use such as feeding bottles and everything present in it, should be sterilized on a daily basis.
*Avoid exposing the child to too many visitors. A large portion of infections acquired by newborns are transmitted through contact with an adult. Normally only one or two person should handle the child to minimize the risk of contamination.
*Clean mommy, clean preemie. Mothers, being the primary individual looking after the child, should always keep themselves very clean so that they do not pass on any germs to their children. In case of breast feeding, moms must clean their nipples before giving each feed.
Remember that the maximum amount of hygiene practiced reduces the risk of infections to the minimum.
Keeping your preemie healthy
Since premature babies are born earlier, their development is deemed to be different; generally they’re smaller in size as compared to full term babies. Because preemies grow at a rate more rapid than full-term newborns, incidentally they more in need of special nutrients, hence the existence of preterm formulas.
*Nourish them with vitamin and iron supplements. Preemies are usually iron deficient hence the need for an iron supplement, that’s why doctors often prescribe iron drops for these infants to take for at least 4 months. In addition, they’re also given vitamin supplements to serve as an additional support to the child’s immune system.
*Breastmilk is best for preemies. Though these nourishments are evidently reliable, breastmilk still has a single advantage that supplements cannot easily depose: that it contains antibodies that will protect babies from infections his immune system can’t singularly fight off.
When your baby sleeps
Premature babies don’t sleep for a long time at a stretch; they wake up more often compared to full term babies.
*Always put the baby to sleep on their backs. Premature or normal ones, all should sleep only on their backs till they reach an age of one to reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). Babies when sleeping on their stomach may most often choke itself and this will result in crib deaths.
*Don’t panic over the infant’s episodic sleep apnea. Sleep apnea occurs when a baby stops breathing for 20 seconds or more, this is a common condition in preemies. "We monitor for apnea in the NICU, and a baby can’t go home till there is no apnea for a full week," says Toby Debra Yanowitz, MD, a neonatologist at Magee-Womens Hospital of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.
However, some nurseries send infants home on apnea monitors if the infants have mild apnea that does not cause a change in color or heart rate or require stimulation to make the baby breathe again. Other nurseries may monitor preemies until the breathing pattern reaches maturity, usually about 44 weeks’ post-conceptional age.
*Be informed on how to conduct infant CPR. Doctors will decide if the baby needs a monitor; if so, anyone who will be alone with the infant at home (especially the ones who are on apnea monitors) will need to attend a training session on using the monitor and learn how to perform infant cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) in case an emergency occurs.
Baby’s extended protection
Premature babies are given immunizations just like normal full term babies. They may be given extra shots for preventing flu and other diseases which they may be prone to catch compared to their normal counterparts.
*Make sure that the child has all necessary immunizations. While preemies are at risk for contracting infections after discharge, they’re predominantly vulnerable to respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), a common viral infection in young kids that’s often mistaken for a cold or flu. RSV poses hardly any problem with adults and toddlers, but with preemies it may lead to breathing problems, severe illness, or worse death, and sadly this is the common cause for rehospitalization of the baby.
*Proper developmental check-up is important for every preemie. There are certain instances when the preemies problems manifest during the latter part of his infancy, making it best to conduct necessary check-ups even though the preemie appears to be normal. In fact, most former preemies continue to make appointments with specialists including early-intervention specialists, neurologists, ophthalmologists, and physical therapists, for several years to measure their vision, hearing, speech, and motor skills.