Premature babies are infants that are born about 3 weeks before their estimated due date. Another way of putting it would be a baby that is born before the start of the 37th week of pregnancy. Premature birth is dangerous for the infant as the baby has not been given the time in the mother’s womb that he/she needs to develop fully. Premature babies, especially those that are born very early, usually suffer from medical complications such as apnoea, respiratory stress disorder, jaundice, anaemia, etc.
Here are a few tips that will help you in taking better care of your premature baby:
- Taking your child home from the hospital
This might come across as a very daunting situation when it is finally time for you to take your premature baby home. It is important to know that it is very beneficial for not only your baby but even you as a parent as it reduces the chances of your child catching any infection in the hospital. Also, your infant learns how to feed on its own, and benefits from the positivity and comfort of your home environment, where you can establish a stronger bond with your new family member. Do remember that a hospital would never suggest you take your baby home if they did not think that both you and your baby were ready to go home. Going home from the hospital is definitely a good thing as it means that your baby’s health is stable.
- Breastfeeding your premature baby
Breastfeeding is an important part of motherhood, no matter what. There are a lot of benefits to breastfeeding as breast milk contains certain amount of nutrients and vitamins that help your premature baby grow and develop faster and healthier. Breast milk is much easier to digest than formula milk as it is specially designed by your body for your baby. If your infant is too premature for breastfeeding, it is recommended that you start expressing your milk eight to ten times a day and once in the night in order to keep your milk supply up. You can have a nurse or midwife show you how to express milk in case you are new to it. Your other option is donor’s breast milk that can be provided either by your hospital or some other source.
- Maintain skin to skin contact with your premature baby
This has proven to be a great exercise for not only the baby and mother but also the father. You can practice skin to skin contact by dressing your infant in a nappy and letting him/her rest on your chest under your shirt or under a blanket so that he/she is tightly secured to your body. The benefits of skin to skin contact are many, and include reducing any pain or stress your child is feeling. It also promotes healthy weight gain, helps establish breast feeding, makes it easier for your baby to adapt to its new environment, and also helps regulate its heart rate and breathing.
- Pay extra attention to your baby’s sleeping requirements
It is normal for your preterm baby to sleep throughout the day as this helps in its growth and development process. A few tips to make sure your baby is sleeping well: ensure that your baby is always sleeping on his/her back and never on the stomach, and always on a hard and flat surface without any pillows.
- Limit outdoor visits
It is wise to ensure that your baby stays at home for the first few weeks after birth. Doctor appointments are an exception and should be attended regularly. However, the reason that we ask you to make sure your baby is at home most of the time is because your child’s immunity is very low at this stage and he/she is prone to catching infections and viruses very easily. To avoid complications, and even fatality, your baby should be kept in safe and clean environments for at least the first few months.