Things to know when taking care of a premature baby
Taking care of a premature baby requires a huge part of your attention and knowledge. Babies are considered premature if they are born before 37 weeks of pregnancy. While the first few days/weeks are spent in the NICU, you are allowed to take the baby home after your doctor approves it. After your NICU experience, you might know a thing or two about taking care of your preemie.
It’s important to understand that the experience of caring for preemies can be entirely different from normal parenting. It’s completely normal to feel nervous and scared when you bring your baby home. But don’t worry, you can have a smooth transition with the right kind of support and guidance.
Why do premature babies need special attention and care?
The earlier your baby is born, the higher the risk and health complications. Premature babies are underdeveloped and undernourished babies that need special care and monitoring. From feeding schedules to sleep routines, preemie parents must follow different techniques and tips to ensure the baby’s safety and comfort.
Compared to many years ago, these babies can now get additional medical care even outside their mothers' wombs for as many days/weeks as needed. Until their bodies are strong enough to support them without the extra support, these babies are kept in the hospital under doctor supervision. Thanks to significant technological advancements in medicine, taking care of premature babies is not as challenging as before.
Things to know when taking care of a premature baby
When you bring your premature baby home, make sure you keep these points in mind and follow them religiously to ensure the safety and comfort of your baby.
Keep track of your baby’s growth
Premature babies have slower growth rates compared to full-term babies. Since they are usually smaller, they also experience slower growth and development. However, most premature babies manage to catch up with full-term babies no matter how slow their growth rate is.
You can consult your doctor for special growth charts for your baby. Along with growth tracking, your doctor will also want to monitor your baby's developmental milestones. Things like activity level, sitting up, and crawling would fall in this category.
It’s a no-brainer that premature babies have comparatively lower immunity. These babies are also more prone to illnesses. Due to this, you can’t risk having a lot of visitors at your home. Though it’s understandable that your relatives and friends would be excited to meet your baby, it’s your responsibility to restrict them for a few days/weeks till your baby is safe to visit.
You must be extra cautious and careful with unwell visitors and postpone any such visits from them. It’s also a given that you shouldn’t allow smoking anywhere around your baby.
Learn to swaddle the baby
Since your preemie is out earlier than it should, it’s not easy for the baby to adapt to the environment outside the womb. As a parent/caretaker of a premature baby, you must ensure the same kind of warmth and safety that a baby gets inside a mother’s womb. Swaddling your baby can help achieve this. Make sure you learn the right way to swaddle a premature baby from trusted doctors and nurses.
1st Step’s muslin swaddles can come in handy when you want to swaddle your baby. Our swaddles are durable and remain soft and silky even after numerous washes. These adjustable swaddle blankets will help your baby sleep more soundly and for longer durations.
Have a consistent feeding schedule
Most preterm babies require 8-10 feeds a day. Since they are in need of extra nutrition and care, you must ensure that they get a sufficient amount of nourishment for the day. You should not go more than 4 hours without feeding your baby as this may cause dehydration, which can lead to dangerous consequences.
Though it’s usually advisable to breastfeed your baby, some preemies can face problems in latching. In these cases, you can pump breastmilk and feed it through bottles and sippers. Some doctors even recommend feeding your baby formula milk since it can help in their growth and development.
Check out 1st Step’s feeding bottles and breast pumps for a smooth and hassle-free feeding session.
Check your baby’s vision and hearing
Premature babies are most likely to have vision and hearing problems during their early days. Crossed eyes (Medical name: Strabismus) and ROP (Retinopathy of Prematurity) are common problems faced by preemies. However, this issue normally goes away on its own as your baby grows and develops. Your doctor will suggest you visit an eye doctor for regular checkups.
Premature babies can also face hearing problems. You can check this by making sounds and other loud noises near your baby to see if they react to it. If you think your baby has hearing problems, visit your doctor immediately.
Take care of your baby’s sensitive skin
It’s important to give your baby’s sensitive skin the extra care it needs. Use hypoallergenic baby wash, soap, and shampoo. Make sure the products don’t have any scent and have a white or clear appearance – this shows the product is free of dye. Follow the same instructions when you use a baby lotion too.
When it comes to diapers, babies can easily get skin rashes. To avoid this, you can use soft clothes for diapers as they will not irritate the baby’s sensitive skin and ensure maximum comfort.
At 1st Step, we have 100% muslin nappies that are completely safe for your baby’s tender areas. These nappies let your baby's skin breathe easily and protect it from redness and irritation.
Keep in touch with your doctor
A premature baby requires constant supervision. Once you bring your preemie home, it’s your full responsibility to address all their needs and concerns with special care and attention. No matter how prepared you are, it’s advisable to keep in touch with your doctor when caring for your baby. Since the doctor is already aware of your baby’s condition, his insights and advice can help you during difficult times.
Keep your doctor informed about every minor change or development in your baby and visit him at regular intervals.
Get the support you need
Lastly, taking care of a premature baby is not a cakewalk. If anything, it’s only more demanding than caring for full-term, healthy babies. For a sense of emotional support, you can keep in touch with other preemie parents undergoing the same experience. You can also attend a parenting class to get expert tips on taking care of your preemie.
If you experience signs of postpartum depression, make sure you inform your doctor immediately. Remember, you don’t have to do it alone.
Taking care of a premature baby can be anxiety-inducing and exhausting, especially for newbie parents. You might need special knowledge and hands-on experience to fully understand and care for them since they are different from other babies in many aspects.
Make sure you keep in mind the above-discussed tips while taking care of your premature baby. You can always reach out to doctors and fellow preemie parents whenever you need extra help and guidance.
Check out 1st Step’s wide range of durable and safe baby care products for a hassle-free and smooth experience.