Taking Care Of A Premature Baby
There is always a chance of having a premature baby show up three weeks before your due date. This can be startling and make some mothers and fathers feel under-prepared. This is normal which is why understanding all you need to know about premature babies is an important thing. It can calm any nerves and let you know how to take care of a premature baby.
Here is everything you need to know when it comes to taking care of a premature baby.
What is a Premature Baby?
A premature baby is a baby that is born three weeks before the expected due date or before the 37th week of pregnancy. There are roughly 1 in 10 babies that are born prematurely. Because babies may not be matured at the time of birth, they may need to spend time in the NICU which is the Newborn Intensive Care Unit.
This is because premature babies have more health complications than a baby who Is born on time and monitoring and is necessary for some after birth.
When is a Baby Considered Premature?
Besides the date of being born between 37 weeks or three weeks before your due date, there are essentially four categories of premature birth that a baby can fall into. They are divided into timing categories from moderate to severe in terms of how many weeks before the due date the baby is born.
The baby is born between weeks 34-36. This is the closest to the baby being born at the right time.
The baby is born between weeks 32-34. This is the second closest to the baby being born at the right time.
The baby is born less than 32 weeks of pregnancy. This is approaching the severe preterm category.
The baby is born less than 25 weeks of pregnancy. This is the most extreme example of premature.
Why Are Babies Born Prematurely?
Most of the reasons that babies are born prematurely relate to the mother’s health. High-stress levels, being overweight, other medical issues, among some others are good indicators of why your baby was born prematurely.
These are some of the main factors that can contribute to a baby’s premature birth.
Mothers Health Issues
If you are underweight or overweight as a mother going into labor in a few weeks it is not uncommon to see babies that are born prematurely as a result of this. Usually, babies are born with a low birth weight which is what makes them at risk.
Other factors of a mother’s health like high blood pressure and hypertension from stress are contributing factors as well. Anything that would be in a past medical history such as diabetes, any cervical or uterus issues, and any other medical problems.
Smoking & Drinking
While smoking and drinking are highly discouraged when pregnant it is usually about this. It can cause your baby to have health problems and premature birth is one of the direct results of smoking and drinking while pregnant.
Past Premature Babies
If anyone in your family has previously had a history of delivering premature babies you may as well. Under this, if anyone If your family has a history of delivering twins or more than one baby this is also sometimes why a baby may be born prematurely. They are more common when more than one baby is being born at a time.
Premature Baby Care
Most babies that are born prematurely will have to spend some time in the NICU. It’s good to note that the earlier you deliver your baby the more likely they will have to spend more time there because of the greater chance of health complications right after birth and the following months as they grow.
As a parent, there are several things you can do to aid in this process. Having said that as a parent you may need to know that sometimes there’s little you can do while the hospital helps take care of your little one.
Here is what to expect with premature babies.
Spending Time In The NICU
Should your baby have to spend time in the Newborn Intensive Care Unit there will be several limitations to what you can do with your baby based on his or her health.
- You may not be able to feed the baby as they are not stable enough to breastfeed.
- They may need IV fluids to bring them to a stable condition.
- You may not be able to hold your baby right away because of their unstable condition.
Having said that spending time with your newborn as much as you can and am permitted to is still important. It allows you to bond with the baby and allow them to recognize you as the caretaker.
Out of The NICU
Once your baby has gotten permission to leave the NICU you may notice that your baby cries a lot and seems to be unhappy. Premature babies tend to be colicky for some time and it’s important to manage your levels of stress so that you don’t become overwhelmed.
You also will need to bring the baby in for a lot of checkups in the months leading after the birth so that the doctor can make sure they are monitoring any health and developmental issues that may have been missed or not present at the time of birth.
Premature Baby Development
Most premature babies have a lot of catching up to do with their development. To appropriately understand where they should be according to their age, you will have to use a rough calculation to find out what their adjusted age is. It’s pretty simple.
The calculation goes like this:
The number of actual weeks old minus the number of premature weeks equals the adjusted age.
For example, if the baby is 37 weeks old but born 3 weeks premature their adjusted age would be 34 weeks old. Here are some milestones you can expect for babies who are not premature. If you calculate their adjusted age it lines up with this chart.
1 Month (4 Weeks)
- Follows parents with their eyes
- self-comforting behaviors like sucking on hands
- Fussy when bored but calm when attention is given
- Looks at objects
- Makes brief vowel sounds
- Notices when parents are talking
- Sensitivity to the environment like loud noises
- Different types of crying dependent on the situation
- Moves arms and legs together
- Holds head up when laying on tummy
- Unclenched hands when resting
2 Month (8 Weeks)
- Associated sounds with happiness and sadness, laughing and crying
- Cooing sounds
- Open and shuts fingers
- May bring hands together
- Lift’s head and chest on stomach
- Can keep their head up without support
4 Month (16 Weeks)
- Laughs out loud
- Looks for parents
- Turns to the sound of a voice
- Longer cooing noises
- Can support oneself with elbows and hands while on the tummy.
- Unclenched hands
- Plays with hands
- Grasps objects
To keep following the same chart you can click here to six months and beyond.
Premature Baby Complications
Several complications can come from a premature baby. As mentioned above they will be slower to develop their motor, language, and social skills than other babies which is why there is an adjusted age. Here are some other things that can occur.
In the short term they may experience issues with:
- Breathing Issues
- Heart Issues
- Brain Problems
- Temperature Control Issues
- Gastrointestinal Issues
- Blood Problems
- Metabolism Problems
- Immune System Issues
There are longer-term risks as well to a premature baby. They can include:
- Cerebral Palsy
- Impaired Hearing
- Vision Issues
- Impaired Learning
- Dental Problems
- Behavioral Issues
- Psychological Issues
- Chronic Illnesses
Premature Baby FAQs
While that may have already felt like an information load it is always better to be prepared than not. You may still have some questions and that’s normal. Here are the most frequently asked questions when it comes to premature babies.
Do Premature Babies Look Different?
This is one of the most popular questions as some parents forget that their babies will look premature as they will be born prematurely. Usually, premature babies’ heads look a lot bigger than the rest of their bodies because they are born with low birth weight. The average baby weighs around 7.7 pounds while a late preterm baby can weigh as little as 4.7. Babies that are born extremely preterm can be less than 1.5 pounds.
Can I Do Something to Increase My Chances of Having an On-Time Pregnancy?
Taking care of your health is the most important thing you can do when keeping your baby healthy. While it is a given that you should smoke, drink, or do drugs, you also want to maintain a healthy diet and exercise program.
Managing your stress and taking time for yourself if you aren’t feeling great is equally important. Your body is developing and changing as babies so self-care is important. Something that can help with this is starting prenatal care as early as possible. This means taking good quality prenatal vitamins to give you the support that your body needs.
Any arising health problems that you may have when you are pregnant should be checked out and treated immediately. Your doctor will know which medications you can and can’t take along with the best path to ensuring that you stay healthy but so does your baby.
Are Some Premature Labors Planned?
Most premature labors are not planned but are typically carried out by c-section to ensure the health of the mother and the baby. The stress from vaginal labor may be too much for the baby or mother. If premature labor is scheduled is for health risks due to the mom or baby in which the doctor has decided it is best to have the surgery earlier. This is something that is determined by your doctor.
Your chances of having a c-section increase with the number of babies you are carrying. If you are expected to have twins, triplets, or more, the likelihood that you are going to have a c-section operation is much more than if you are carrying just one child.
What Are Some Common Myths of What Can Cause a Premature Baby?
There have been multiple things thrown out in the world that have been said to be the cause of a premature baby but there is no correlation. While it is always a great idea to check with your doctor if you are doing the right things, here is a list of things that do not cause premature birth.
- Arguments (constant stress can)
- Tight Clothes
Speak With Your Doctor
While all of this information is good to know and have in the back of your head, no one can help you better than your doctor. Your doctor can monitor your current and past health to check on the baby. A doctor can monitor the baby’s size while they develop and keep an eye on your exercise and eating patterns to help guide you to the healthiest possible lifestyle to ensure a healthy baby.
Remember that 1 in 10 babies are born prematurely and that stress is a natural thing that comes with being pregnant. This ultimately only leads to a premature birth if the stress is more than usual and more than the mother can handle. This would be hypertension and high blood pressure which can be combated with healthy habits like eating well and exercising the appropriate amount.
Taking care of your premature child may be slightly different than traditional after labor care but nurses and doctors will help guide you through the appropriate steps to take care of your premature baby.