The "preemies" or premature babies are born before completing the usual term period i.e., 38-40 weeks of gestation. Premature newborns come to the world with a lot of complicated health issues because their organs are not fully developed. Early deliveries are not easy and there is a risk involved for both, the mother and the baby.
Since premature babies have low birth weight and underdeveloped lungs, they need to be treated in Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) for a week to a few months, depending on the severity of their health ailments. They have weak immunity and get frequent infections like cold, cough, colic, and pneumonia.
Premature Baby care at home
Now your baby is almost ready to adapt to the environment of your home. So, here are some tips to be followed at home for your premature baby's care.
1. Breastfeed and Kangaroo Mother Care (KMC)
Kangaroo Mother Care is a skin-to-skin care technique. This is commonly used for low birth weight preterm babies. Here, the baby is placed on the bare chest of the mother to keep them warm and support breastfeeding. It can also improve the baby's breathing rate. KMC is very helpful not only for the baby but also for the mother, since it supports them to increase their breast milk. Mother's milk is full of nutrients and antibodies that can promote the baby's health and development. Thus, it is important that you do it the right way for your preemie. Breastfeeding and Kangaroo Care together increase bonding and intimacy with your new one.
Your baby is weak. You need to maintain their body temperature and keep them warm, comfortable, and safe. Although you can add or remove the blankets or other items after washing the baby, there is no need to bathe them daily. You can use soft cotton balls in warm water to clean them each time.
First of all, make their bed fully comfortable and keep a dim light in the room while sleeping. You can also use a mosquito net if required. Use diapers at night to give them an undisturbed sleep.
4. If you co-sleep instead of using a crib
Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) is a condition in which babies die in their sleep abruptly. Babies who are premature and/or have low birth weight are at a comparatively higher risk. Experts believe that co-sleeping with your baby before they are three months old poses a greater risk, however, it is only natural and reassuring for you when your baby is right next to you. So, keep these things in mind for co-sleeping.
i. Always sleep on a firm surface such as a mattress on a bed and not a sofa, beanbag, or armchair. A flexible surface like a sofa could suffocate the baby if their head sinks into a soft corner.
ii. Make sure that there are no gaps between the mattress and headboard/ guardrail of the bed in which the baby’s head could slip.
iii. Do not put them on a pillow or use heavy blankets for even these could suffocate them.
You always have your doctor to guide you as well, so follow their advice regarding SIDS and use the equipment with proper care as suggested.
Take your baby on your shoulder and rub their chest for them to burp properly. It reduces the risk of reflux.
Gastro Esophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) is common in small babies. Try to lay your baby on their back or hold them in an elevated position to reduce reflux. It is the major cause of lung infection in infants.
7. Limit Visitors
Visitors may bring infections with them unintentionally. Therefore, don't allow them to touch the baby. If they insist, make sure they wash their hands before touching the baby and always use hand rubs when handling the baby.
8. Avoid Cosmetics
Never use unhealthy cosmetics and avoid eye products like kajal. Premature babies are more likely to develop Retinopathy of Prematurity (ROP) which causes abnormal blood vessels in the eyes and can lead to blindness. Also, don’t use scents, perfumes or powder around the baby as these can cause breathing issues and lung infections. Likewise, make sure no one smokes in the home.
9. Travel safely
Try to avoid journeys for the first 6 months, if possible. Premature babies can develop a tendency of reflux during journeys. Always keep the equipment like nebulizers or resuscitators along with you in your car seat.
Finally, it's the time for playing rock and roll with your baby when you bring them home. Participate in their activities, play with them, sing lullabies, change diapers, and maintain skin-to-skin contact as much as possible. Your loving touch has many physiological and psychological benefits to the baby's development.