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Thanks to detailed research, scientific advancements, and medical application, premature babies now receive the best care possible while in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). Here, doctors and nurses will do everything in their power to fully support the development and growth of a baby.
Whether you’ve welcomed a premature baby of your own, or know someone who has, you’re probably curious about how preterm birth impacts the growth and health of an infant.
Here are 5 important and interesting facts about premature babies.
- They’re At Risk Of Many Health Complications
Preterm or premature babies miss out on important weeks in the womb which can have a huge negative impact on their neurological and physical development. It also means they miss out on crucial weight gain which means they are born much smaller than a full-term newborn.
But it isn’t just their smaller size that can be worrying – it’s the whole host of health complications that comes along with it. Babies born even a few weeks early be at higher risk of experiencing:
- Respiratory issues
- Feeding difficulties
- Low blood sugar levels
- Developmental delays
- Issues with vision and hearing
- Increased risk of infection
- Correct Nutrition Can Support Catch-Up Growth
Receiving the right nutrition is an important part of neonatal care for any baby, especially for those born prematurely.
If you are unable to express milk or find that your baby requires additional nourishment, the NICU can supplement their growth with a specially made formula. There are store-bought formulas that offer these same properties for when you take your baby home.
Maternal milk is the most ideal source for catch-up nutrition because of its powerful benefits that enable any preterm baby to grow, survive, and thrive while in the NICU. A specific substance found in human milk known as epidermal growth factor (EGF) blocks the activation of harmful proteins which reduces serious—and often fatal—preterm complications such as necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC).
Unfortunately, NEC is a common cause of death in hospitalized premature infants over 2 weeks old. The nature of maternal milk means that a baby is more protected against such conditions from developing. This means there’s much less chance of a Necrotizing Enterocolitis lawsuit from occurring.
- They Cannot Be Compared To Full Term Babies
The majority of premature babies born will develop normally and have a healthy childhood. However, they are at a much higher risk of developing a disability or a long-term illness as compared to full-term babies.
This is especially true for babies born before 32 weeks as they have had considerably less time to develop in the womb. Because they are younger, reaching developmental milestones may take a little longer for premature babies compared with babies that have been carried to full term.
That being said, you cannot compare the growth rate between a preemie and a full-term baby. It’s easy to get caught up in these comparisons, especially when the premature infant is finally able to leave the hospital, but it truly isn’t worth the stress.
All babies have scheduled routine appointments in the clinic to monitor development. Premature babies will often have additional appointments where any issues can be picked up before they can develop into something more serious.
- NICU Graduation Can Be Difficult
It’s a huge milestone when a premature infant hits 5 pounds while in NICU. But it doesn’t mean they are ready to be discharged. A premature baby must hit all of these milestones before being sent home:
- Breathe on their own.
- Must gain significant weight.
- Maintain a normal temperature by themselves.
- Able to take all of their milk by mouth—breastfeeding or bottle feeding—with ease while also getting sufficient calories.
- Don’t experience apnea (pauses in breathing) and bradycardia (slow heart rate.
Each baby is different so it’s hard to say exactly when your baby will hit these initial milestones before being discharged.
- Skin-To-Skin Contact Is Essential
Holding your baby to your bare chest, also referred to as Kangaroo mother care, is a beneficial mode of care for a preterm infant. The skin-to-skin contact soothes your baby to a point where they can relax and breathe easily on their own.
It provides them with a better coping mechanism for stress, encourages more stable sleep patterns, and also provides better nervous system functioning. Skin-to-skin contact is an effective way of stabilizing low birth weight babies and could even lead to your newborn being able to leave the NICU quicker!
Talk about the power of a snuggle!
Premature birth can be a terrifying and uncertain experience for all parties involved. But, provided the infant is given the right level of attention, medical care, and adequate nutrition—they should grow up to have a completely normal childhood.