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New parent? Check 10 ways to support the developmental needs of premature babies | Health

Bringing a new life into the world is a remarkable and awe-inspiring experience however, for parents of premature babies, it can also be a journey filled with unique challenges. Premature birth, defined as birth before 37 weeks of pregnancy, can raise concerns about a baby’s development.

New parent? Check 10 ways to support the developmental needs of premature babies (Photo by Danik Prihodko on Pexels)
New parent? Check 10 ways to support the developmental needs of premature babies (Photo by Danik Prihodko on Pexels)

In an interview with HT Lifestyle, Dr Suresh Birajdar, Neonatologist and Pediatrician at Motherhood Hospital in Kharghar, spilled the beans on navigating the early journey of developmental concerns in premature babies, what to expect and how to support their developmental needs –

1. Delicate Beginnings: Understanding Prematurity

Premature birth can happen for various reasons, including maternal health issues, multiple pregnancies (e.g., twins or triplets), or unknown causes. The degree of prematurity can vary, with some babies born just a few weeks early and others several months prematurely. Each premature baby’s developmental journey is unique.

2. Adjusted Age: A Key Concept

When assessing the developmental milestones of premature babies, it’s essential to consider their “adjusted age.” This means calculating their developmental age based on their due date rather than their actual birth date. Adjusted age accounts for the time spent in the womb, providing a more accurate picture of their developmental progress. Sometimes, it is also called as “corrected gestation”.

3. Growth and Weight Gain: Early Priorities

Premature babies often need specialized care in neonatal intensive care units (NICUs) to support their growth and weight gain. Adequate nutrition is critical during this period, as it helps preemies catch up to their full-term peers in terms of size and strength. Healthcare professionals closely monitor their weight and growth to ensure they are thriving.

4. Respiratory Challenges: Breathing Support

Premature babies may have underdeveloped lungs, requiring respiratory support in the form of oxygen therapy or mechanical ventilation. These interventions can affect their early development, but the good news is that with proper care, many preemies eventually outgrow these challenges.

5. Neurodevelopmental Delays: Monitoring Progress

Premature birth can increase the risk of neurodevelopmental delays, which may manifest as challenges in motor skills, language development, and cognitive abilities. Early intervention programs and developmental assessments can help identify and address these concerns.

6. Feeding Challenges: Patience and Persistence

Feeding can be a significant concern for premature babies. They may have difficulty breastfeeding or bottle-feeding due to weak sucking reflexes or coordination issues. Working closely with a lactation consultant or feeding therapist can be instrumental in overcoming these challenges.

7. Sensory Sensitivities: A Gradual Adjustment

Premature babies may exhibit heightened sensitivity to light, noise, and touch. Creating a calm and soothing environment in the NICU and at home can help premature infants gradually adjust to the sensory stimuli of the outside world.

8. Kangaroo Care: The Power of Touch

Kangaroo care, where the baby is held against the parent’s skin, has proven to be highly beneficial for premature infants. It promotes bonding, regulates the baby’s body temperature, and supports overall development.

9. Developmental Milestones: Celebrate Progress

Parents and caregivers need to celebrate every developmental milestone achieved, no matter how small. Premature babies may reach certain milestones later than full-term infants, but with time and support, most babies catch up.

10. Seek Support: You’re Not Alone

Parenting a premature baby can be emotionally challenging. Reach out to support groups, healthcare professionals, and early intervention services for guidance and reassurance. Connecting with other parents who have experienced similar journeys can provide invaluable support.

The developmental concerns in premature babies are real but they are also surmountable and with early intervention, specialised care and unwavering parental love and support, premature babies can overcome many challenges and thrive. Every milestone achieved is a testament to their strength and resilience, reminding us of the remarkable journey they’ve embarked upon from their very first breath.

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