Premature Babies

An infant is considered premature if born before 37 weeks of gestation, before they’re physically ready for life outside the womb. They need extra medical attention immediately after delivery, and perhaps for several weeks afterwards.

For the parents, premature birth can be a wrenching experience. Seeing your precious new-born rushed off to the ICU and perhaps being unable to hold him or feed him, can be devastating.

Remember Premature babies can be, and normally are, saved and go on to live healthy lives

Today babies as small as 24 weeks plus can be saved, but as the brain is often immature, they can develop cerebral palsy or mental retardation. Babies above 28 weeks are normally fully developed except for their lungs. They lack a vital ingredient – surfactant – which is necessary for breathing. Artificial surfactant is available but is extremely expensive. Often the use of a ventilator helps the preemie tide over the first few dangerous days.

Sometimes a premature delivery can be avoided –

  • Avoid stress during your pregnancy. Stress can lead to premature labour.
  • If you have a high-risk pregnancy, consult your doctor regularly and follow the medical advice completely.
  • What are the ways you can adopt to deal with premature babies?.
  • Look for a maternity home with a tertiary care facility so that vital time is not lost in transporting the baby. A tertiary care nursery normally includes a ventilator amongst its facilities.
  • Ask to see your baby as soon as possible after delivery. Your presence will be a comfort and a support to the baby. – As much as you can, get involved in his care. Ask the doctors and nurses caring for him how you can help.

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Remember the Premature baby needs the strength and support and comfort of your love more than ever

If you want to breast-feed, try expressing the milk. This way when your baby is able to feed, your milk will be available to him.
Don’t hesitate to ask questions
Don’t listen to friends and relatives who insist on predicting doom or pull a long face.

Most premature babies, despite initially slow weight gain, do go on to develop absolutely normally.

Follow up is essential- the two main problems that can arise with premature babies are related to sight and hearing. Go in for regular medical checkups.
Keep him away from colds and infections.

Don’t worry if the physical milestones are a little delayed but report delays in mental milestones immediately.

Enjoy your baby. Follow your doctor’s advice but don’t deny him (or yourself) the pleasures of outings and regular play.

Related Links

Choosing the doctor & hospital
Daily care
An infant’s point of view

Milestone chart
Expressing milk
Choosing a paediatrician

Common ailments
Traditional Practices & Fallacies

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