Preterm Baby Care: 3 Things Parents Must Be Careful About 

A preterm or premature baby is born much in advance of the due date. According to the Mayo Clinic, a typical pregnancy lasts about 40 weeks. If the baby is born before the 37th week, they are said to be preterm. 

There are different stages of premature birth as well, including –

  • Late preterm when the baby is born between 34 and 36 weeks 
  • Moderately preterm refers to delivery between 32 and 34 weeks 
  • Very preterm which happens between 28 and 32 weeks 
  • Extremely preterm where birth occurs before 28 weeks 

In most cases, preterm babies are born during the late stage. Those that are extremely premature seldom survive. In any case, preterm babies must battle serious health problems or at least be vulnerable to them. If you’re a new parent to a preterm infant, this article will discuss three crucial areas of your baby you must be careful about. 

Proper Sleep 

Before we begin, let’s mention that premature babies usually require 24×7 monitoring in a NICU. Still, special care is needed once the baby is discharged and returned home. Based on that, the first aspect to consider is safe and proper sleep. 

It has been observed that preterm babies have a different sleep pattern when compared to full-term infants. Overall, they may sleep more but the cycles are shorter and the sleep is light. This means a premature baby can be easily startled. Moreover, their fragile frames call for ultra-soft and comfortable bedding.

Let’s talk about some ways in which you can ensure sound sleep for your preterm baby –

  • Keep the room’s lighting extremely dim and calming. Avoid switching on the bright lights unless unavoidable. 
  • Establish a fixed routine that leads to bedtime. A sample would be bath time followed by feeding, some cuddling, soft music, and sweet snuggles as your baby drifts into Slumberland naturally. 
  • Swaddling is said to soothe and calm the baby by reducing arm movements that may interfere with their sleep. While swaddling, keep your baby’s arms in front or near their face for self-soothing sensations. 
  • It is alright to lay down your baby while they’re awake as long as they’re drowsy. Place them on their side as you lower them inside the crib. Then, gently turn them on their backs. Directly putting the infant down on their back can disturb their sleep. 
  • Ensure that your preterm baby’s head is uncovered while sleeping. In other words, remove any hats or caps before laying them down. 
  • Do not attempt to co-sleep with your baby before they are at least three months old. This is because premature infants have a higher risk of dying from Sudden Death Syndrome in their sleep. 

The Right Nutrition 

All babies need high-quality nutrition to thrive and grow properly. A preterm baby’s nutritional needs are only greater because they have not stayed in the womb long enough to store all the nutrients they require. 

Breast milk is the best possible nutrition for your premature baby. In case you cannot breastfeed for some valid reason, consider purchasing milk from a human milk bank. As far as possible, avoid feeding your preterm infant any commercial formula. 

Baby formula manufacturers like Abbott Laboratories and Mead Johnson have been severely criticized for their products Similac and Enfamil respectively. These baby formulas are said to cause Necrotizing Enterocolitis (NEC), especially among premature infants. The condition affects the baby’s gastrointestinal system and is life-threatening. 

Parents of injured babies have sued the aforementioned formula manufacturers. According to TorHoerman Law, they have alleged that the companies hid the complications despite being aware of them. This was done to preserve profits at the expense of innocent lives and unsuspecting parents. 

As per the latest NEC lawsuit update, no settlements have been made since the litigation is in its early stages. However, it is shocking to observe that many new cases are being filed each month. As of April, over 400 NEC lawsuits are awaiting settlements in the class-action multi-district litigation (MDL). 

This active litigation is a caution for parents of preterm infants to monitor their baby’s feeding. Even in the NICU, urge the neonatal care team to feed the baby human milk from a reliable milk bank. 

According to MedlinePlus, some preterm babies may even require a supplement called the human milk fortifier. It will provide them with extra calories, protein, vitamins, and more. 

Bathing and Grooming 

Preterm babies’ skin will not have developed well, much less when compared to full-term infants. Moreover, their body temperature must be maintained constantly due to weakness. This is primarily why you must not bathe your baby daily. 

You can change their clothes and sheets on a daily basis. Another option is to use a damp cloth to clean their body in case you find the idea of not bathing daily unsettling. Do not use any products that may have chemicals or fragrances. Listed below are some things to keep in mind for your preterm baby’s bathing and grooming. 

  • Give your baby a swaddle bath as most premature infants prefer that. 
  • Use warm water for bathing and ensure nothing enters your baby’s eyes, nose, and ears. 
  • Your baby’s face and hands must be cleaned daily but a full-blown tub bath can be reserved for two to three times a week. 
  • Remember to wash the folds under your baby’s chin and neck after each feeding. 
  • Never place the baby inside the bathtub without checking the water’s temperature. 
  • You can use a gentle baby lotion but keep all powders and oils away. Their particles are tiny enough to enter your baby’s lungs and cause damage. 
  • Do not insert anything into your baby’s ears for cleaning, including cotton swabs. 

According to UNICEF, nearly 15 million premature infants are born annually. Sadly, preterm birth is the top reason behind the death of babies under five years of age. Kangaroo Mother Care (KMC) or immediate skin-to-skin is considered to be one way to save a premature baby’s life. 

Other than that, the three areas mentioned in this article will play a key role in safeguarding the baby’s health. Once the worst is behind you, your baby will have room to grow into a healthy and happy individual. 


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