Preemies or babies that are born prematurely needs to be looked after with care because they are prone to many health complications. A preemie is a baby that is born before or slightly after 37 weeks. If you have a baby that is born prematurely you would be worried, and this is natural though in most cases there is no need for alarm.
Caring for a preemie needs extra care and effectiveness. Thankfully there are enough health care centers which offer expert advice and care for your baby. In case of a complication your baby will be treated at the neonatal intensive care unit or NICU in short. The NICU at the Sri Lanka’s General Hospitals are among the best places you could go with your baby.
As soon as your baby is born, in case of a premature delivery, she or he will be kept at the NICU of the hospital and will be constantly monitored before the little one is ready to go home. Here the BabySpace will look at what you need to know about caring for your preemie.
What are the health complications your preemie will have?
A baby who is born earlier than the due day will be at most risk of any complications. Since he or she has not developed well there will not be enough fat in his or her body to keep the body temperature at a safe level. Also when the baby tries to cry you will only hear a faint sound and he or she will grasp for air afterwards, due to breathing difficulties. Like we discussed before apnea- or shortened breathing- is a possibility and the baby will sometimes have trouble in hearing and sight.
Other complications, though not always experienced, include inability to pursue motor skills, have difficulty in learning, and other physical health complications.
So, how do you know that the little one is really ready to go home?
If you baby can be kept in the open or a room with a stable body temperature then your baby is adapting to the environment and ready to be taken home. Another sign is if your baby does not have pauses when breathing, a condition known as apneas, which result in slowing of the heart rate. This can also lead to colour changes like a slight blue or purple. If your baby can drink out of the bottle or suck milk from your breast without have any breathing problems then he or she is getting better.
Doctors will also discharge your baby if it has enough in-take of calories and energy to go out into the open. This is to ensure that the baby’s body is able to retain body temperature. If the baby has enough calories then it will also gain weight, another reason to know that the little one is ready for the new experience- going home.
Breast feeding your preemie on your own
When you are at the NICU you should have felt more confident in breast feeding the little one than at home. This is because at the NICU you had a nurse to help you with the baby. Now that he or she is home you would feel anxious, don’t feel guilty about this because almost all mums with a preemie feel this way.
The most important thing that you have to keep in mind is that breast milk is really helpful to your child. It sharpens the immune system, which will fight infections and other health complications, and also digests fast. It will also help your little one to feel warm and cared. When a baby is in the primary period of the infancy the bond that it has with the mother is very important. So, master breast feeding your baby and it will help you and the little one in many ways.
In Sri Lanka we keep the baby in the same room where we sleep. Undoubtedly this room will need enough cleaning and a bit of changing. Clean all corners and window sills along with the rest of the room thoroughly. Take away the cloth cupboard because clothes trap dust which will be bad for the baby, especially the preemie. Put new bed spreads, pillow cases and clean new toys. Keep yourself as clean as possible.
Also, make sure there is no smoke in the room. Since secondary smoke is very bad for your child try to keep smokers away from the room and even the house till your baby is healthier. If friends visit ask them to wash their hands before going into the baby’s room.
Keep the baby in a room where there is no bright lights and much sound, which could upset the baby. Keep the house as calm as possible. This will also help your preemie to learn to sleep well, though in the initial period it will refuse to do so because of the change in the environment. Preemie babies sleep for a longer time than other babies do, but in shorter periods. When you are putting the little one to sleep make sure it lies on the back all the time.
Monitoring your preemie
This includes observing carefully if the baby’s breathing is regular. Always keep a record of his or her condition. If the baby cries for a longer period, or sleeps lesser than usual or changes in bowel movement will help your doctor to see if there is any complications and make treatment more effective. Always update the doctor about the condition of your baby. Get advice from experts.
Take care of yourself
As a parent you would try to give all attention to the preemie than yourself or other family members. But try to take a break if you feel that you need one. Maintain a good diet and keep yourself healthy.
Talk to your spouse and share what you feel. Go out and relax because having a preemie is not your fault. If the preemie has siblings explain to them briefly about their brother’s or sister’s condition. Answer their questions and give them a sense of responsibility too.