A preterm baby is born before 37 weeks of your pregnancy and often has serious medical concerns. When it’s finally time to take your premature baby home, you may feel worried and anxious about leaving the security of the hospital and all of the helping hands. With the right preparations and expectations there is nothing to fear. Below are a few tips to on how to care for your preemie newborn (and yourself!).
Talking to Your Doctor
Your pediatrician wouldn’t have discharged your premature baby if they thought he or she wasn’t ready. But this doesn’t always erase the parent’s anxiety. Feel free to ask your doctor questions with concerns you may have and what special care your child may need. A large part of the anxiety is the uncertainty. The more information and preparation you have, the more confident you will feel.
Before you take your newborn home, you should begin to establish your milk supply. Breast milk contains proteins, calories and vitamins that help fight infection and promote growth. These nutrients are especially needed in premature babies since they face a higher risk of infection because their immune systems are particularly immature.
Once you give birth, begin pumping as soon as you can, even if your baby cannot feed from your breast or bottle yet. This way you can freeze some of the milk for later use. Once you are able to feed your baby, aim for feeding at least once every three hours or so, about eight feedings every 24 hours. Also, ask your doctor about your baby’s need for supplementation — either in the form of breast milk fortifiers or preterm infant formula.
Your Baby’s Sleep
Unfortunately, while premature babies may sleep more than full-term babies, they sleep for shorter periods of time. Since this can affect your REM sleep cycle, it’s important to have a plan set in place with your partner of what to do when your baby wakes up. This will help you both get more sleep.
When positioning your baby on the crib, place your child on his or her back. Use a firm mattress and don’t use any pillows, crib bumpers, heavy blankets, or stuffed animals. Studies have linked sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) with soft mattresses and sleeping on the tummy. Click here for more info from the American Academy of Pediatrics about reducing the risk for SIDs.
Your doctor will probably ask you to monitor your baby’s development in for any signs of breathing problems and any other medical conditions. This doesn’t mean you need to overstress yourself, but keep an eye out for any health problems. A large part of caring for your child is also caring for yourself. It’s okay to rely on others for support and take a break when you need it.
You’ll want to use an adjusted age when measuring your premature baby’s development. To calculate, simply use your baby’s age in weeks minus the number of weeks he or she was premature. For instance, if your baby was born two months early, at age 6 months your baby’s corrected age is 4 months.
To further discuss your questions related to pregnancy or caring for your preemie, schedule an appointment online at our Lake Nona OB GYN office or call (407) 478-6249 today.