My baby is premature. What should I do to ensure his/her healthy growth?
If your baby was born before 37 weeks in the womb, you have a preemie. Your main goal as a parent of a preemie is to help your baby catch up in developing and getting to a weight equivalent to a full-term baby. You would also want to make sure your baby’s immune system gets fully developed. There are a couple of ways you can help to make these happen.
What is kangaroo care?
Kangaroo care can be carried out by both the mother and the father of the preemie. Mothers should place the baby between their bare breasts, and fathers can also place the baby on their bare chest, with a blanket placed over the baby’s back to keep the baby warm.
Kangaroo care is beneficial to your preemie because your baby will form a bond with you through touch and smell. Being in contact with you also helps your baby to have more regulated breathing, a more regulated body temperature, and a more rhythmic heart rate. Your baby will also feel calmer and in turn sleep more deeply and get the rest he or she needs to grow healthily.
It may seem daunting at first to hold your baby, who seems so tiny and fragile. Trust that you can do this, and get the nurses in the NICU to help you do this more confidently. As you do this more, you will find yourself more and more comfortable with holding your newborn, and the benefits of this for your baby’s healthy growth and development are plentiful.
Feeding a preemie
You’ve heard all the benefits of breastfeeding your baby. For premature babies, breastfeeding is even more important. Remember that your body produces breastmilk specifically for your baby. When your baby is born premature, the milk you produce will give your baby the extra nourishment he or she needs.
The milk will also have antibodies that help protect your baby from infection. This is especially useful because preemies’ immune systems are still not well-developed. The antibodies in your breast milk will give your preemie a better fighting chance than any formula milk will, even if the formula milk is advertised to be made specially for preemies.
The standard practice at the NICU is to feed your expressed breast milk through a tube called a nasogastric tube or a gavage. This is usually because your baby still cannot suckle at your breast or from a bottle. Once your baby is ready to feed at your breast, you should do this as often as you can. Though your baby may not take a lot of milk each time, the benefits of breastfeeding go beyond getting the milk from the breast. Click here to read about the benefits of breastfeeding.
Growth and dvelopment of a preemie
All preemies are small, but depending on how early your baby is born, he or she may be smaller than the other preemies in the NICU. Do not worry about comparing your baby with the other babies. Every baby is unique in his or her journey.
More than 90% of preemies who weigh 800 grammes or more survive, and if your preemie weighs more than 500 grammes, there is a 60% chance that your baby can grow and develop healthily. Your doctor will help guide you in caring for your baby in the best way possible so that your baby will be fine.