Bayview Hospital recognizes the importance of educating mothers on the methods of caring for their premature babies at home. We know that it can be a frightening experience to walk away from the security of the hospital. If you are anxious about caring for your premature baby at home, remember that health care professionals do not send premature babies home until they are certain that they are ready. With some preparation and planning, you will be ready too!
What is a premature baby?
Babies born before the 37th week of gestation are considered premature and are in an extremely delicate stage in their lives. Most mothers whose babies are born prematurely are often scared and nervous, and this is because premature newborn babies have an increased risk of complications.
Why do premature newborns need special care?
Premature babies are not fully equipped to deal with life in our world. Their little bodies still have underdeveloped parts that include the lungs, digestive system, immune system, and skin. Thankfully, medical technology has made it possible for premature babies to survive the first few days, weeks or months of life until they are strong enough to make it on their own.
We have a list with some of the best practices for taking care of your premature baby. You should expect to live quietly with your baby in the beginning because their immune systems are still developing; premature babies are at risk for infections. So, you will need to take the necessary precautions.
Here are some measures you can take in the early days to help your baby at home:
Visits outside the home should be limited to the doctor’s office for the first several weeks, especially if your baby is discharged during the latter months of the year (October- December). Doctors’ offices commonly have several children with viral infections, try scheduling your appointment as the first of the day or request to wait in an examining room instead of the main waiting area. Ask the doctor how limited your baby’s contact with other kids and adults should be during these first weeks.
Avoid public places and some visitors
Most doctors recommend not visiting public places with premature babies, and limit visitors to your home. Anyone who is ill should not visit or be around the premature baby. No one should smoke in your home, and all visitors should wash their hands before touching the baby. Talk to your doctor about specific recommendations. Some family visits may need to be postponed to allow your little one’s immune system to grow stronger.
Put your baby to sleep on its back
Babies’ success at feeding and sleeping is important to their health. Expect your premature babies to sleep more than a full-term baby, but for shorter periods. All babies, including premature babies, should be put to sleep on their backs to reduce the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).
Practice Kangaroo Care
Take advantage of these quiet weeks together to enjoy skin-to-skin contact, also known as Kangaroo Care. Most intensive care nurseries encourage parents to begin Kangaroo Care before discharge; the nursing staff can show you how. In a warm room at home, dress your infant in only a diaper, then place the baby on your chest and turn your baby’s head to one side so that his or her ear is against your heart. Research shows that kangaroo care can enhance parent-child bonding, promote breastfeeding, and improve a premature baby’s health.
These measures will help to give a better understanding on how to approach caring for your premature baby at home. If you experience an emergency at home with your premature baby, alert your health care professionals as soon as possible.
The information contained on this website should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.