Approximately 15 million babies are born preterm every year, and this comes with its own set of challenges for parents as the baby needs more than special attention.
Why do preemies need extra care?
A baby born before the 37th week of pregnancy is considered to be a preemie or premature baby. As preemies arrive early, they have underdeveloped parts like the digestive system, skin, and immune system. They are not fully equipped to deal with life outside the womb and require longer hospital stays as compared to a full-term baby.
The main quest for parents begins once the baby arrives home. Here are a few tips that will help you.
1. Kangaroo care: It is a name given for skin-to-skin contact where the infant is snuggled against the mother’s chest. The baby feels safe and automatically searches for a breast to latch, promoting breastfeeding. Other advantages include parent-child bonding, healthy brain development, and weight gain. According to the WHO, it is the best start in life of preemies.
2. Breastfeeding: Preemies are slow to feed as compared to full-term infants and require frequent feeds. Be patient and also ready to feed 8 to 12 times a day. If your baby is not strong enough to latch or suckle, you can use a breast milk pump to collect milk. Pumped milk can be fed using a dropper or spoon.
3. Prevent infection: As the lungs of preemies are not well developed, they require more protection.
i) Avoid too many visitors at your place.
ii) Always wash your hands with water and use a sanitizer before changing diapers.
iii) Keep your baby away from pets.
iv) Do not let sick individuals spend a lot of time with the baby.
v) Use good disinfectants to clean your room.
4. Calculating milestones: Pediatricians recommend “adjusted age” for preemies to determine the normal range for hitting a particular milestone. For example, if the baby is born 7 weeks early, adjusted age would be actual age minus 7 weeks. While most of the full-term babies are expected to sit up somewhere between 4 and 7 months, a preemie that is born 2 months early is expected to do the same between 5 and 8 months.
5. Sleeping position: Preterm babies should be made to sleep on the back for at least 6 months to prevent the risk of SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome). Once the neck muscles are stronger, the baby should be made to lie on the abdomen to prevent a flat head as the skull is very soft.
6. Protect from smoke: Smoking should be absolutely prohibited in the baby’s room. Smoke from pooja, dhoop, incense stick, and camphor burning should be avoided, and proper ventilation should be maintained while doing so.
7. Keep things calm: Preemies are more susceptible to the adverse effects of loud noise. Prolonged exposure to sound beyond 50 dB should be avoided. Make sure that the baby spends most of the time in a dim and quiet room.
8. Keep a check on danger signs: A premature baby is at a higher risk to develop certain complications as it was not fully developed in the womb. As a parent, you should be aware of the certain danger signs that a premmie may exhibit, which requires immediate medical attention. Remember the sequence-ABCCDDH to keep a watch on the following signs:
B- Breathing difficulties
C- Cold hands and feet
D- Decreased feed
D- Decreased activity
If the premmie baby shows any of the above signs, it is best to visit your doctor immediately.
9. Keep your pediatrician on speed dial: Preemies require special attention. A cough which could mean a plain cold could be life-threatening for a premature child. So consult your pediatrician at the first sign of trouble, ignoring symptoms could be dangerous for your child.
One of the most important things in trying to make this world a better place for your child is that you do not neglect your health. Give yourself the required rest and do not forget to celebrate a new beginning.