Premature babies

Preterm babies

Every tenth baby is born prematurely. A preterm baby needs special attention and care from both physicians and parents; specialized equipment and modern approaches to treatment. The signals and risks of premature birth cannot always be recognized in time; therefore, a premature birth can be considered an uncontrolled process. Full-term babies are born between 37 and 42 weeks of pregnancy.

Premature babies

A premature baby is born before 37 weeks of the pregnancy term and weighs less than 2.5 kg. To determine the optimal scope of medical interventions and nursing, all premature babies are divided into gestational groups:
  • 36 weeks and 6 days — slightly premature;
  • 32–34 weeks — moderately premature;
  • 28–32 weeks — significantly premature;
  • less than 28 weeks — extremely premature.
A preterm baby needs additional warmth and body controlled temperature. One of the risks is hypothermia, as preterm babies cannot maintain their body temperature (the brain is not yet able to regulate and maintain body temperature), and they have insufficient amount of subcutaneous fat. This is why incubators or heated tables are used. The best way to help an premature baby learn to regulate its body temperature is the "Mother Kangaroo Care" method, using which one of the parents to provide body heat by placing the baby on the parents chest in a comfortable position.

Extreme preterm babies

Extreme preterm babies are nursed in neonate intensive care units (NICUs). These babies are extremely premature, with an insufficiently developed nervous system, lungs, heart, kidneys, digestive organs, and immune system and need round-the-clock care from medical professionals. Despite this, studies show that about 49% of extreme preterm babies have good health indicators later on in life. The Ministry of Health of Ukraine has approved the Protocol of Medical Care for Preterm Babies to be followed in healthcare facilities.

Feeding preterm babies

Nutrition of a preterm baby has its own characteristics. Premature babies have increased nutritional needs, with a small stomach, as well as problems with digestion, coordination of sucking and swallowing reflexes. The possibility of breastfeeding, which is undoubtedly a priority, is assessed by taking into account the infant's gestational age, degree of maturity and general condition.
An alternative method is tube feeding with enriched breast milk with special feeding formulas. A small tube is inserted into the baby's mouth or nose and feed into the stomach.
Feeding and keeping warm are some of the vital conditions for nursing a baby. And here the "Mother Kangaroo Care" method is especially important, which, in this context, helps stimulate milk production, as well as establish a psycho-emotional connection between the mother and the child.

Development of preterm babies

The weight gain of a preterm baby in the intensive care unit reaches on average 10–30 g per day. As for the period after the baby’s discharge from hospital, the calculations of weight gain by month are the same as in the weight gain table for full-term babies. The premature baby may not gain as much as its peers. If there is a small deviation this is not be a concern. Physicians advise to evaluate the baby’s physical and mental development taking into account the corrected gestational age, until approximately the age of two.. If by the age of 2 the child has not caught up with its full-term peers, it may be time to seek help from specialists. But we emphasize that the most important thing for the infant is to make progress; most likely, it develops at its own pace. You can check the developmental milestones here: Diary

Traits for caring for preterm babies

Caring for a baby born prematurely has its own characteristics. Premature babies care by month:
1–3 months — nursing in NICU (neonatal intensive care unit). Special attention is paid to the light and noise (it should not be too bright nor too loud); hygienic procedures in the morning are carried out by healthcare professionals or parents, if the baby's condition has stabilized and parents can stay with the baby all the time; feeding through a tube or with a bottle, depending on whether the baby has developed sucking and swallowing reflexes. Diapers and clothes used to dress babies should be of appropriate size and quality, preference should be given to natural fabrics. Please note that massage is often started in the medical facility so far, which is only possible on the doctor's advice.