World Prematurity Day (17th November) is a global movement to raise awareness of babies who are born before the 37th week of gestation. Premature birth is a serious health problem. Babies born too early come with various challenges as their lungs, digestive system, immunological system, and skin are still in an underdeveloped stage. Premature babies develop various long-term health conditions, like breathing problems, gastrointestinal issues, apnea of prematurity, lactose intolerance, weaker immunity, and heart problems. That is why they require special attention during their initial two years, especially when they are underweight.
Here are some tips to care for your premature baby
Provide positive, reassuring touch
A gentle, positive touch is a way of communicating your love and reassurance to your baby. Spending time with your baby has been proven to be a beneficial activity for both the parents and the infant. Babies do communicate, and by holding your premature infant close to your skin, you can give them the foundation to grow emotionally, physically and intellectually.
Safeguard your preemie from infections
It is important that you keep infections and allergies away from the baby during their initial two months. Before touching the baby, pay special attention to your personal hygiene. Ensure that your hands are cleaned properly with soap and water in order to avoid any kind of allergy or infection. Avoid visitors at home, because the baby is at a higher risk of catching infections, allergies, and diseases.
Practise kangaroo care by placing your baby against your chest. This not only helps you feel closer to your baby, but also more confident in caring for them. Additionally, it improves lactation and helps better weight gain for the baby.
Maintain the correct temperature
To fulfill the high need of building immunity in premature babies, it is important to provide a comfortable body temperature. Check your baby’s temperature from time to time to avoid any unwanted health problems. Dress up your infant with layer clothing like sleepsuits. Cover her with blankets which you can easily add or remove depending on the warm or chilly weather.
Watch their growth
Preterm and low birth weight babies may show stunted growth in their initial years, but they slowly catch up with the normal kids over a period of time. However, as a parent, it is good to be vigilant of your baby’s growth and track her milestones. Don’t ignore the regular follow-ups with the doctor.
Just like other babies, your premature baby will need washing and cleaning. You can bathe your infant once in two days in lukewarm water. Use cotton-wool balls to wash and sponge their bottom, face, and neck. After a wash, use a towel and quickly wrap to dry your child so that your baby’s body does not lose its heat. Avoid applying scented talcum powders and lotions after a bath.
Most preemies have low birth weight and need about 8-10 feedings in a day. But feeding a premature baby can be challenging, as such babies face problems during latching or sucking. Mothers of premature babies spend a lot of time with a breast pump in the early days and weeks. Although this is exhausting, it’s highly worthwhile, because the milk contains essential nutrients and precious antibodies that help build your baby’s immune system. Be consistent with their feeding schedule. Do not wait for more than four hours between two feeds.
Ensure a sleeping schedule
Premature babies need more sleep than full-term babies; however, they sleep for a shorter duration of time. Ensure that you keep noise and disturbance away from the baby and put your baby to bed on their back, not on their stomach. Dress up your baby aptly, cover the baby with a warm blanket and use a firm mattress without a pillow.
Check indoor pollution
Your baby’s lungs are very fragile. Air purifiers and indoor plants can be beneficial for the health of the baby. Make sure that your baby’s room is well-ventilated. Avoid mosquito repellents as they contribute to indoor air pollution. Ensure that no one smokes around your baby.
The experience of having a premature baby is life-changing, utterly life altering. As the parent of a premature baby, it is natural to feel anxious and live in constant fear for your child. But with practical help and emotional support from family and friends, worry lines often give way to laughter lines.