Giving birth to a preterm baby is very scary, and parents often have no idea how to care for their preemie once they leave the hospital.
For the past 10 years every 17 November is observed as World Prematurity Day. This day aims to highlight and raise awareness of preterm birth and the concerns of preterm babies and their families worldwide.
This year’s theme for World Prematurity Day is: “Together for babies born too soon – caring for the future”.
“While most international research is conducted in high-income countries, it repeatedly states that parents of premature infants have increased needs and require additional information and support after the infant’s initial discharge from hospital,” says Prof Welma Lubbe, associate professor at the North-West University, School of Nursing Science and owner and founder of the parenting support organisation Little Steps.
When is your baby premature?
According to Little Steps, a baby born before the 37’th week of pregnancy is completed is considered premature. A baby born before 28 weeks is extremely preterm.
Causes of premature birth
Prematurity can be caused by various medical conditions during pregnancy as well as certain lifestyle conditions. Some include:
- Multiple pregnancy
- HELLP syndrome (a life-threatening complication considered to be a variant of pre-eclampsia)
- Premature rupture of membranes
- Bleeding of the placenta such as in cases of placenta praevia
- Placenta abruption
- Injury to the abdomen (during a car accident or fall)
- Foetal abnormalities
- Pregnancy induced hypertension (high blood pressure)
Risks for a premature baby
A preemie is not just a very small baby. They face some great risks and obstacles because the protection of the womb is suddenly removed. They still need that protective environment to develop their immature organs, especially their brain.
Your baby’s stay in the NICU
When your baby is admitted to the NICU, you’ll learn a whole different language that can be really scary. This handy glossary from Prematurity – Adjusting your Dream, will help you understand what the doctors and nursers are saying.
Taking your preemie home
Premature babies usually go home on the day they should have been born. If there aren’t any major complications, your premature baby may be released from hospital a few weeks prior to the actual due date. Before the doctor will discharge your baby, he will make sure that she can breathe comfortably without respiratory support, ensure that there are no neurological cardiac or eye complications, and that she can feed on her own (premature babies are generally tube-fed in hospital).
Here’s some other handy info that will come in handy when you take your preemie home:
- Ask the nurses at the hospital where you can find preemie products in your area, or get in touch with other moms who had preemies on social networks such as Twitter and Facebook.
- Remember to ask your doctor when your little one’s first check-up should be scheduled for before you leave the hospital.
- If you have questions about anything from bathing and breastfeeding to burping your baby, ask the NICU nurses, your lactation consultant and your doctor.
- Remember to install a child safety seat in your car before taking your baby home.
- Don’t overdress your baby – if it’s warm, a nappy and T-shirt are fine, together with a blanket to wrap her in when you leave the hospital.
- Young babies typically cry for one to five hours in 24 hours and can’t always be calmed, so don’t fret about these crying spells; they’ll subside after a few weeks.
- If you’re concerned about your baby’s health, feel free to call your doctor.
Xanet is an award-winning journalist and Living and Loving’s digital editor. She has won numerous awards for her health and wellness articles and was a finalist for the Discovery Journalist of the Year in 2009 and again in 2011 for the Discovery Best Health Consumer Reporting and Feature Writing category. She is responsible for our online presence across social media channels and makes sure our moms have fresh and interesting articles to read every day. Learn more about Xanet Scheepers.