About 11-13% of pregnancies in the US result in premature birth and about 60% of twins and triplets are born prematurely. If your baby was born early, you might have questions and concerns about their development and health. Caring for a premature baby will depend on the degree of prematurity. Late preterm occurs between 34-36 weeks of completed pregnancy. Moderately preterm occurs between 32-34 weeks. A very preterm birth occurs between 26-31 weeks and extremely preterm occurs at or before 25 weeks.
The more premature the baby is, the more likely they are to have health issues and disabilities. For babies born too early, a neonatologist (a pediatrician who specializes in the care of premature babies) may be called in to determine if any special treatment is needed. To learn about some of the common medical conditions that can affect premature infants and the way they’re treated, check out this resource here. Most premature babies are born in the late stage and will grow up to be healthy kids thanks to medical advancement.
Premature babies will be smaller than babies born at full term and their heads will seem larger in relation to the rest of their bodies. Their skin will also be thinner and they will have less fat, so they will get cold even in room temperature. That is why when babies are born early, they are placed into incubators to warm them. Some preemies can have trouble breathing because their respiratory system is not yet fully developed. If this happens, your baby will need to be under close observation by doctors and may be given a ventilator or a breathing assistance equipment for support. Premature babies may have to spend more time in the NICU so that they receive the best care they need.
You might notice that your premature baby doesn’t sleep through the night. This is common for the first 6 to 8 months. To help your baby, maintain a quiet, calm, and relaxing environment during night feedings and use minimal or soft lighting. During the daytime when your baby is awake, interact and play with them. Over time, this will teach your child the difference between day and night.
When it comes to growth and development, preemies will need to have their age calculated and adjusted during the first two years so that you know what developmental milestones to expect. To calculate the corrected age, take your baby’s actual age in weeks and subtract it from the number of weeks they were preterm. For example, if your baby was born 6 weeks ago and they were born 2 weeks earlier than their due date, the corrected age is 4 weeks. The developmental milestones expected for 4-weeks-olds is what you can expect for your 6-weeks-old preemie.
If there are any developmental delays, it’s important that they get addressed early for early intervention so that you can get your baby on track. To learn about the developmental milestones for premature babies, check out this guide to save.
Just like with any baby, your infant should have regular well checkups. It’s not necessary for all premature babies to have more well visits than babies born at full term. However, if your baby has health issues, they may need more checkups for us to monitor their conditions and provide special care.
For questions or concerns about your preemie’s health and development or to schedule your baby’s well checkup, call our office.