A premature birth is when a baby is born too early, usually before the 37th week of pregnancy. A normal pregnancy lasts about 40 weeks. Premature babies may face some challenges in their growth and development, and need special care and attention from their parents and healthcare professionals.
How to communicate with the neonatal healthcare team?
Establishing open and regular communication with the neonatal healthcare team is important to understand your baby’s condition, treatment plan, and progress. Familiarize yourself with the NICU (neonatal intensive care unit) environment, including equipment and protocols. Understand visiting hours, hygiene practices and policies of the NICU.
How to monitor your baby’s milestones?
Parents are concerned about their children hitting certain milestones on time. It’s important to look at their adjusted age (also known as the corrected age). This is the age your baby would be if they were born on their due date. Most preemies do catch up to their peers who were born on time, but it’s important to be patient. A baby who has faced significant medical issues may need a little more time to reach their milestones in life.
How to feed your baby?
Premature babies initially are fed through tubes if they are less than 33-34 weeks. Early oral feeding and direct breastfeeding can be achieved by following practices like promoter stimulation exercises, non-nutritive sucking and skin-to-skin contact. Mothers should try to maintain good lactation and should strive to feed the baby with exclusive breastmilk whenever possible as it has surplus health benefits. Human milk fortifiers might help with faster weight gain in babies below 1.5-1.8 kg of weight.
How to keep your baby warm and comfortable?
Keep your baby warm by maintaining a room temperature above 26 degrees Celsius. Adopt practices like kangaroo care, swaddling and delaying bathing till the baby is 2 kg. Kangaroo care involves holding your baby in skin-to-skin contact for a minimum of 1 hour daily, which has numerous health benefits for both babies, like faster weight gain. Practice good hygiene precautions to help prevent infections.
How to ensure your baby’s health and well-being?
Premature babies must undergo age-appropriate necessary screening tests like brain ultrasound, hearing screening, screening for retinopathy of prematurity to prevent blindness, thyroid screening and screening for jaundice. Birth vaccinations (BCG, OPV, Hep B) should be given before discharge. And chronological age is followed for the follow-up vaccination schedule. Multinutrient supplementation (vitamin D, calcium, iron and other multivitamins) is imperative. Regular follow-up care once your baby is discharged is crucial to monitor your baby’s growth and neurological development.
How to celebrate your baby’s achievements?
Celebrate every milestone, no matter how small. Premature babies may progress at their own pace, and each achievement is significant. Remember that the journey with a premature baby can be challenging, but with knowledge, support, and collaboration with healthcare professionals, parents can provide the best care for their little ones.