How To Care For A Pre-Term Baby

Do you know that you can have a pre-term baby due to poor nutrition before and during pregnancy? One in 13 babies are born pre-maturely. This article looks at how to care for them.

By Dr Madhuri Prabhu

How To Care For A Pre-Term Baby

Sujatha Deshpande went into labour before her term and gave birth to a baby boy. When the baby was introduced to the new parents, both Sujatha and her husband were clueless as to what they had to do with the baby. Thankfully, the doctor intervened and explained that pre-term babies require special and extra care as compared to babies who are born within the normal timeframe.

When a baby is born on or before 37 weeks of gestational age, they are termed as pre-term babies.

To have a premature baby can be a traumatic experience for parents, more so if the baby is unwell. Most pre-term babies are at risk of developing various disorders since they are born with less developed systems.

If the baby is born before the 32nd week of gestation, those babies need more care as they have spent less time inside the uterus. They miss out on various nutrients inside the womb. As their lungs are not fully formed, pre-term babies are at high risk of developing respiratory distress.

Many times, there are no concrete reasons for having a pre-term baby. However, some of the possible reasons are:

  1. Poor nutrition before and during pregnancy.
  2. Certain infection like urinary tract and amniotic membrane infection in the mother.
  3. Previous pregnancy or premature birth.
  4. Abnormal uterus.

Daily care routine for a preterm babies

  1. The baby should be sponged with warm water with a wet towel till the baby is two kgs.
  2.  It is important to maintain the baby’s body temperature.
  3. Utmost care should be taken while feeding the baby. Breast milk is recommended for pre-term babies as it has all the key nutrients which are essential for the growth of the baby.
  4. It should be kept in mind that nutritional requirements of pre-term babies differ. It depends on the degree of prematurity, size, weight, etc.

Pre-term baby and NICU

The risk of pre-term baby falling sick increases earlier the child is born. Pre-term babies are recommended to stay in Neo-natal Intensive Care Unit NICU.

Premature babies have premature organs. They usually have breathing problems because their lungs are not fully-developed. As their organs are too under develop to carry on normally, they need to be supported well till their bodies take charge and cope with the daily functioning. Hence, they best place for these premature babies are in NICU till they can function independently.

Can a premature baby be healthy?

Premature babies can be healthy as they grow up. However, it is vital that they are provided with adequate nutrition and care as pre-term babies are more prone to health problems. Good care in the initial few months will ensure life-long healthy growth and development.

Milestones and pre-term babies

Most of the pre-term babies reach milestones on time. Again, it depends on the level of prematurity at birth and the type of support they are getting. Sometimes, such pre-term babies reach the milestones little late than normal term babies.

Do pre-term babies cry a lot?

It is a myth that pre-term babies cry a lot. Not necessarily, if their needs are met, pre-term babies are just like normal term babies. All babies tend to cry for feed. Some babies cry more due to reflux issues or colic. If proper care is given after birth, a pre-term baby can be as normal as a full-term baby. 

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