If you’ve recently had a premature baby, you aren’t alone. The CDC estimates that in 2014, 9.6% of babies were born premature. A premature baby is defined as being born before 37 weeks of gestation; babies born very preterm arrive before 32 weeks. Premature birth is the biggest contributor to infant death known in the medical system.
Premature babies who do survive often have vision, hearing, heart, and respiratory problems. These babies may also have disabilities such as cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy, and varying degrees of intellectual disability. However, he or she can live a full, active and healthy life with the right care.
Premature Baby Tips
Know Your Hospital’s Discharge Requirements
Many premature babies spend weeks or months in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). This process can feel long and excruciating, but your physician wants to make sure your baby is truly ready to go home. Babies are sent home when they:
- Can maintain body temperature in an open crib for 24-48 hours
- Can take all feedings, breast or bottle, without tubes
- Are steadily gaining weight
It can take 2-4 weeks to reach this criteria, and longer if your baby has had surgery or health problems. Babies with these problems are likely to stay in the hospital past their original due dates.
Ask All the Questions You Can
If your baby has a particular diagnosis, ask everything you can about it. Even without a particular diagnosis, learn all you can about what your preemie needs. For example, a preemie born in winter must be kept extremely warm; ask your pediatrician for a safe way to do that. Also, observe your baby closely and share what you see with your pediatrician. Based on your observations, he or she may recommend new treatments for your baby.
Begin pumping your breast milk as soon as possible. Your breast milk provides the baby with many of the nutrients it needs to keep growing, so be prepared to pump 6-8 times per day. Freeze breast milk in bottles, and let your pediatrician know how much your baby is eating.
Love, Love, Love
Finally, love your baby as fiercely as you would had he or she been born on time and without special needs. Touch him as much as you can, and speak to her in a soothing yet confident way. Let your baby know his or her future is bright because you’re in it.