Special Needs of a Premature Baby
by Angela Heidt
All parents hope that their child will be born to term and be completely healthy; however, this doesn’t always occur. For many reasons, some babies just don’t want to stay in your uterus for the full 40 weeks, and any child born before 37 weeks is considered premature.
What a premature baby may need entirely depends on just how developed they are when born. Premature babies most often need help breathing and may have problems with kidney function. These two issues are resolved by having the baby intubated until he or she can breathe on their own and placing the baby under phototherapy lights until their kidneys are functioning properly.
A big concern for parents when they have a premature baby is infection, as a preemie’s immune system does not function near as well as a full term baby’s. In the hospital, your infant will likely be kept in a very sterile environment, but once you get home, it is all up to you. Take special precautions, such as having everyone sterilize their hands before holding the baby and avoiding public places. If you feel these precautions are necessary for your baby’s health, then no one should have a problem with it.
There may also be a delay in breastfeeding, so you will have to pump until your newborn has developed the necessary muscles to be able to feed. When feeding your baby, hold him or her as close as possible, to your bare skin if you feel comfortable, as this will allow you to create that important bond between mother and child, even if breastfeeding isn’t an option.
Once your baby reaches their original due date, they will most likely have caught up to where they would have been had they gone full term. Depending on how premature he or she was, there may be some developmental delays for the first year or two. For example, if your baby was 2 months premature, he or she may not begin to do things that babies at their age would do until 2 months later. This isn’t a concern, and your baby will grow out of it.
Try not to be too worried about having a premature baby, and remember to enjoy this precious part of parenthood. Before you know it, your baby will be walking and talking, and you will be chasing after them.
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