Caring for a Premature Baby

Premature babies need extra special care from their parents. Premature babies face distinct physical and emotional challenges, such as impaired hearing and vision, jaundice and anemia. While preemies often need treatment from a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), parents too play a crucial role in promoting healthy development in their baby. From feeding and sleep, to clothes and changing, preemies require unique attention to ensure they will grow and develop properly, both physically and emotionally.

Preemie Clothing: More than Just Fabric
Because of their small size and lack of body fat, premature babies need special clothes that will fit them and help them stay warm. Keeping baby warm and comfortable is important in keeping him happy and relaxed. Preemie clothes must also have easy openings that will allow for frequent diaper changes and for easy hook-up to any hospital equipment that your baby requires.

Feeding: Time to Bond with Baby
Feeding is a unique time between a premature baby and her mother. Preemies often require feeding through IV or gavage feeding (in which they are fed milk through a tube).

Therefore, when new moms can breastfeed directly, skin-to-skin contact is encouraged during feeding in order to increase the ability to bond. Breast milk can also be administered via medical equipment, as in gavage feeding.

New mothers are also encouraged to keep up their milk supply, pumping breast milk every two to two and a half hours. Feeding should be a calm, relaxing ritual for both infants and their mothers. Preemies require feedings from eight to ten times a day, more than non-premature babies.

When solid foods are introduced, usually after four to six months, meals should be small and frequent to ensure that premature infants get enough nutrition to allow them to grow.

Changing: Diapers for Preemies
Preemies need changing six to eight times a day. This amount of diapers signals that your baby is getting enough nutrition. Diapers are available especially for premature infants so that they fit right and can be opened without undressing the baby, which is important for hospital-related care procedures.

Sleep: Preemies� Special Needs
Babies born prematurely have different sleeping patterns and needs too. They sleep more hours a day than other babies do because of their special developmental needs. However, they tend to sleep in smaller increments, sometimes making it difficult to ensure that they get enough quality sleep. To make sure they do, limit exposure to overly stimulating environments and outsiders.

Preemies are also at a greater risk of dying from SIDS. Place preemies to sleep on their backs, even if it�s only for a nap. Make sure their mattress is firm, and that no toys are in their crib. Also be sure that nothing is covering the baby�s head or face.

Extra Tips for Preemie Parents: Promoting Growth and Development
Having a premature baby is a physical and emotional challenge. It can lead to feelings of anxiety, anger, guilt, sorrow and even regret. In order to reduce the negative, long-term effects of such feelings, learn as much as you can about your baby�s condition. Jot down any questions or concerns and discuss them as soon as possible with your doctor.

Another important tip is to share any observations of changes in your infant�s condition with your doctor as soon as possible. This will ensure your baby gets the care he needs right away.

Taking care of yourself is also a really good way to promote healthy development in a premature baby. Taking breaks from the care process, establishing support networks and keeping a journal are all great outlets to voice your concerns and ease any negative feelings you may be experiencing. This will help you stay calm and healthy and happy, and therefore your baby too.


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