A premature baby is one born before 37 weeks of gestation. Currently, there are many factors that influence early delivery. For example, more and more women delay motherhood and from the age of 35 on, the risk of the child being born prematurely increases. Likewise, multiple pregnancies can advance delivery.
Regardless of the reason why delivery is premature, prematurity is associated with health problems for the baby. It is for this reason that premature children usually spend more time in observation than a normal baby.
Before being discharged, the doctor must ensure that it meets a series of conditions, such as having the ability to regulate their body temperature and weighing around 2 kg.
Once the specialist has checked that everything is in order, the child can go home. Generally, these children are discharged between weeks 37 and 40 of gestational age and weigh between 1.8 and 2.3 kg, depending on the type of pathology diagnosed to the baby.
In principle, a premature baby can develop just like a full-term baby. Above all, if at birth it weighed more than one kilogram. However, once they get home, these children require specific care and strict medical follow-up, especially during the first year of life.
What is the care we should give a premature baby?
Most parents fear to leave the hospital with a premature baby. However, it is necessary to take into account that if the doctor has given you discharge it is because the child is in good health, which means that your baby:
- It does not have apneas, or these are very mild to have treatment.
- He is able to self-regulate his body temperature.
- It has the right weight.
- It is able to suck and digest correctly.
- You can breathe on your own and do not need to be connected to an oxygen machine.
Parents are responsible for providing the greatest amount of care, love, and care for their baby since leaving the hospital. The protections are the same that would be given to a child born at term but adjusted to their corrected age.
1. Breastfeeding for a premature baby
Breast milk is adapted to the needs of each child. Thus, the milk produced by the mother of a premature baby is different in some nutritional aspects with respect to the milk of another woman.
In addition, its nutritional composition is also special. It contains more protein, sodium, iron, and chlorine than ordinary breast milk.
The best thing for the little one is to receive the milk directly from his mother’s breast. But, if this is not possible, it can be fed by extraction and use a probe or a syringe.
Colostrum provides the small key nutrients. These supplies will help the child adapt to the new world that has arrived earlier than expected:
- Immunoglobulin IgA.
2. Hygiene is fundamental
The hygiene of a premature baby is crucial to protect him from any external agent that may affect his health. A child with these characteristics may have greater difficulty adapting to the external environment because their weight is less than that of a baby born at term. Also, some of its organs are not fully mature.
- The bottom line is that the diaper of a premature baby should be changed up to seven times a day, even if it has not been stained. This is advisable to do it both at home and if you are still in the incubator.
- Your clothes should be clean and disinfected. In addition, it must be easy to use, in other words, that is easy to place and remove.
- Before loading it, and even touching it, it is necessary to wash and disinfect the hands very well.
- Domestic animals should stay away from the baby. This prevents the spread of germs.
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3. Clothing and environment must be adequate
The room of a premature baby should receive natural light. In addition, to have good ventilation and maintain a comfortable temperature, around 20 degrees Celsius, with a certain degree of humidity.
The crib should not have pillows or stuffed animals and the bars should be at least 6 centimeters apart so that the baby can sleep on his back and there is no danger of falling.
Clothing must be disinfected, cleaned and stored in such a way that it does not come into contact with dust particles or excess moisture. It is also recommended that the child wear clothing that is easy to put on and take off.
4. Encourage your baby’s sleep
A premature baby sleeps much more than a full-term baby, but at shorter time intervals, that is, he wakes up more often. Also, their sleep pattern is more immature, therefore their stages of deep sleep last less and those with light sleep are longer.
Premature babies usually sleep around 15 to 20 hours a day. While they are sleeping, it is quite usual for them to move a lot and have whimpers. This is because the nervous system of the premature baby is more unstable and requires much tranquility.
Therefore, it is important that you sleep the hours recommended by the pediatrician. To achieve this, it is necessary to establish routines to learn to sleep. If the doctor does not indicate otherwise, you should sleep on your back. Your crib should be smaller, as this will make you feel more protected and comfortable.
5. Dosing visits to your baby
Depending on how small or fragile the baby is, it is necessary to restrict visits for a while. A premature baby, who has been hospitalized, needs a quarantine period without visits. Also, if the baby had a very low birth weight, you should probably avoid visits for a year or more.
Although limiting visits can be complicated, because people want to meet the new member of the family, it is important to protect the baby and avoid exposure to germs and bacteria.
Someone with a common cold may pose a risk to a child who has been recovering from a lung disease. The noise, movements, and manipulation of the baby can be stressful for the child and alter their nervous system.
6. Increased attention and daily vigilance
The parents of a premature baby should be more alert than those with full-term children. Mainly because most of its organs are not fully developed. Most premature children often suffer from breathing difficulties, so it is key to be aware of the way the baby breathes.
When the baby’s nostrils flare when they breathe, take a breath more than 50 times a minute or start to turn blue, it is a clear sign that the baby is not breathing well and should be taken to the doctor as soon as possible.
Also, ear infections are usually common since your immune system is not fully developed. If the infection is not very serious, you can apply ear drops and acetaminophen for fever. However, it is necessary to consult the doctor first.
It is also important that premature babies are seated in a slightly upright position while drinking milk. Otherwise, breast milk may drip into the ears and cause an infection.
7. Consult the doctor in case of any eventuality
If you have a premature baby at home, it is normal that any symptom is cause for alarm. But, do not worry, remember that you can always ask your doctor what to do if you notice any strange signal in your baby. The symptoms that can be reasons to call the doctor are the following:
- Cry excessively
- Reject food or eat little.
- When sleeping, he performs many more movements than usual and when he wakes up, he is irritable.
- He coughs a lot.
- Accelerated breathing and with visible movements of the chest.
- It shows visible signs of dehydration.
- He suffers from seizures.
- Reduce the amount of wet diapers.
- Have frequent or liquid bowel movements.
- You have a fever for three days in a row.
- If your corrected age is less than six months and your fever is greater than 37 °.
- He has a fever higher than 39º C without an obvious cause of infection.
- It has pale or bluish skin.
- He is not able to wake up from sleep.
Premature babies are smaller and brittle than those born at term. Therefore, they require more care and attention from their parents. Mainly because their immune system is not fully developed and they are more prone to suffer from infections.
It is important that the parents of these children develop in a calm environment, full of peace and free of bacteria. To do this, the people around them must disinfect their hands correctly before approaching the child.
Also, the baby’s room should be free of dust, maintain a warm temperature and avoid placing very stimulating lights that can stress.
Finally, it is important to note that premature babies usually develop normally. Taking into account their corrected age, in this list, you will find what your premature baby can do while developing:
- After two months she smiles, is able to follow with the look, raise her head and move her when she is face down.
- At six months, the child grabs objects. He also raises his head and trunk with his arms stretched when he is face down.
- At nine, he is able to put his hands together and move objects from one to the other. In addition, he turns around on his own and babbles.
- After a year, he gets up and stands without help for at least five seconds.
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