Taking Care of Your Preemie, At the Hospital and At Home

The birth of a baby is a very joyful event–but giving birth early (before 37 weeks) brings about a set of obstacles that you’ll need to tackle. There are many things you can do to provide the best care for preemies, whether they’re still in the NICU or right at home with you. Here are ways to give your little ones the extra attention and care they need:

In the Hospital . . .

Bond from the Beginning

Many premature babies spend time in a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) until they’re stable. While there, bond with your baby by talking to him, touching him, and helping with his care.

One technique to help bond with your baby – and promote healthy development – is called kangaroo care. Your baby will be laid on your bare chest with his head turned to one side so he can hear your heart. Kangaroo care helps with better body temperature control, increased comfort, and better feeding and weight gain.

Breastfeed if Possible

It might not be possible to breastfeed your preemie immediately. What you can do, however, is pump your breastmilk so that it can be frozen and stored for later. Sometimes the hospital can use your breastmilk via tube feedings until you’re able to begin breastfeeding normally.

Breastfeeding is especially important for preemies. It helps them build their immunity, gain weight, and develop normally. It will also feel empowering to you to know that you’re actively doing something concrete to help your little preemie.

Room in Before Leaving the Hospital

Once your baby is out of NICU, request that she rooms in with you before leaving the hospital. Rooming in helps you learn needed skills with the support of healthcare professionals who can answer questions and help you gain confidence in your preemie care abilities.

Take a Deep Breath . . .

It’s natural to feel anxious when you leave the hospital with your preemie. Remember, though, that your baby will not be released until the staff is sure that your baby is ready. So take the edge off your stress and look forward to taking your baby home!

Once You are Home….

Take Advantage of Home Health Care if Possible

Check your health insurance policy. In the case of a premature birth, some policies will pay for a pediatric home health nurse to visit you. This service provides continuing support for parents even once they leave the hospital. It can help you strengthen your preemie care skills, and reduces the risk of complications.

Understand the Differences in Sleeping and Feeding Needs

Premature babies have different sleeping and feeding needs than other newborns. They will generally sleep for more hours a day than full-term babies. When you lay your baby down to sleep, ALWAYS put him on his back. Premature babies are at a much greater risk for sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). You may sometimes have to wake your baby up for feedings, and you will need to feed him 8-10 times daily to help him gain weight.

Be Aware of Potential Breathing Problems

When babies are born prematurely, their lungs haven’t had enough time to develop, which can lead to a variety of breathing problems. Because of this, you will need to:

  • Train in both infant CPR and the use of an apnea monitor if applicable.
  • Train in the use of at-home oxygen for your baby if there is bronchopulmonary dysplasia (BPD) due to scarring or inflammation in the lungs
  • Know the signs and symptoms of respiratory syncytial virus (RSV). Preemies are at a high risk for developing RSV. Signs and symptoms include fever, lethargy or increased irritability, lack of appetite, thick nasal discharge, and a cough with green, gray, or yellow phlegm. This requires immediate medical attention.
  • Talk to your doctor before carrying your baby in a carrier or placing him in any device which keeps him in an upright position. This can increase breathing difficulty.

Control the Environment

Premature babies are often sensitive to their environment. Keep the house calm and quiet, avoiding excessive light and noise. The calm with help your baby to grow.

Also, keep visitors to a minimum. Preemies have weaker immune systems and run a greater risk of getting an infection. If you do have visitors, make sure they’re not ill, have washed their hands, and are caught up on important immunizations such as for whooping cough or the flu. Limit your trips out of the house to just those done for medical visits.

Get the Support You Need

Taking care of a preemie is hard work. It will take the effort of a whole team of people to be successful. Get the support you need from hospital staff, the home health nurse, your pediatrician, and your family. Educating your family – and yourself – about preemies will make it easier to give your baby the care she needs.

Be sure to keep up with regular doctor appointments to monitor progress. Also, talk to your doctor about physical, speech, or occupational therapy to help your baby reach developmental goals as she grows.

Take Time Out for Yourself

What your baby needs most is a parent who is rested and relaxed. You must make sure to take time out for yourself. Find capable caregivers who can take over when you need some “baby free” time. You’ll feel refreshed and ready to spend some bonding time with your little one once again.

What are some of your top tips when taking care of your preemie?

Tags : baby   newborn   preemie   health   

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