The birth of a baby is a thing of joy. However, adequate care for preterm babies (15 million born annually) is a different issue entirely. Preterm babies need special care during their first two years, especially if they weigh less than 2kg at birth.
Here is some advice for parents on how to navigate this terrain:
1. Carry your doctor along.
Your doctor will check your baby to confirm that he or she is gaining weight and discuss how your baby is doing at home.
2. Discuss feeding.
Breast milk is the best baby food but if your baby is having trouble nursing, your doctor may be able to help you solve this problem by referring you to a lactation consultant.
3. Maintain a consistent feeding schedule.
Most preterm babies need 8 to 10 feedings a day. Don’t wait longer than 4 hours between feedings or your baby may get dehydrated (not getting enough fluids).
4. Monitor your baby’s growth.
Preterm babies may not grow at the same rate as full-term babies for the first 2 years. As a result, they are usually smaller during this time. Oftentimes, they eventually catch up with full-term babies though.
5. Don’t rush to switch to solids.
Most doctors advise giving a preterm baby solid food at 4 to 6 months after the baby’s original due date (not the birth date).
6. Give your baby plenty of opportunity for sleep.
Although preterm babies sleep more hours each day than full-term babies, they sleep for shorter periods of time. All babies should be put to bed on their backs, not on their stomachs.
7. Get your baby’s immunizations.
Immunizations are given to preterm babies at the same ages they are given to full-term babies so be sure to keep to the schedule.
Also read: Dos And Don’ts Of Breast Milk Storage