The Beginners Guide to Care of a Premature Baby
When a woman is pregnant and expecting, this is the most exciting time of her life!
Her life will be changing and she will be bringing a child into the world.
Most women expect their pregnancy to go smooth and easy.
Most women expect to deal with the common pregnancy problems like weight gain, cravings and problem sleeping.
So when something happens to the pregnancy or baby, this is a shock to any mom.
No one prepares you when you get the news of having a high-risk pregnancy and you might be hospitalized.
And definitely no mother is prepared to hear the news that she will have a premature baby.
So this guide is meant to provide you with resources on the challenges and solutions that comes with having a premature baby.
Also having a premature baby is not common, so most mothers have no idea the challenges they will be facing.
My blog is meant to be a guide for pregnant mothers and NICU parents to learn and empower themselves through knowledge of their situation.
Hopefully, this can prepare you (even though you are never fully prepared) to take on the NICU journey and have the tools to navigate this unique situation that most parents don’t deal with.
I have been a NICU nurse for many years now and I love my job.
When I found out I was pregnant with my first child, I was soo excited!!
I never thought I would have a complicated pregnancy and my baby will be born in the NICU I work at.
My first pregnancy is what inspired me to start this blog.
I was healthy, young, low risk and everything was going well in my pregnancy.
I was such a low risk to have any complications…no one expected anything to happen.
At the 28 wks ultrasound, they notice my son wasn’t growing and I had placenta problems.
Basically the placenta wasn’t doing its job properly, therefore my son was struggling inside to grow.
At that moment I became a high-risk pregnancy, was hospitalized and was told I will be having a premature baby.
I would never forget that day.. the day that I realized I wouldn’t have the “normal” pregnancy experience.
My whole world was rocked and I cried almost every day.
When my son was born, it was scary!
But what helped me get through the NICU experience is my knowledge and knowing what to expect.
I knew the expected course and what my son will be going through.
I learned so much being a NICU parent and having a high-risk pregnancy.
So I wanted to shed some light and provide a flashlight to other parents, so they can better navigate the NICU world.
Therefore, this is why I believe I’m an authority in this area and I’m excited to share my knowledge with other parents.
What is a Premature Baby and the NICU?
The NICU is the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.
Any baby born (premature or term) that needs extra medical interventions like help with breathing, feeding or temperature control will be admitted in the NICU.
The most common reason babies go to the NICU is that they are born premature.
Check out this post on a proper explanation on the NICU levels of care and what it means for your baby.
Term babies are usually born at 9 months or between 37-40 wks.
Any baby born earlier than 37 wks is premature and will need extra help with breathing, feeding and growing.
Common Misconceptions of Premature babies
- 1. They might not survive
- 2. They will be developmentally delayed and not have a healthy life
- With technology and medications, we have now, many premature babies survive and live a healthy life.
- Depending on how early the baby is born, they might be developmentally delayed at first and need extra assistance from other health care providers such as physiotherapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy.
- Once these babies get the proper interventions, most of the babies do well and are healthy.
- The biggest thing to remember is that babies are soo resilient.
- If a baby needs extra support for their development, the earlier they can have the proper care and intervention, the better they will do.
Tips for Success in the Care of Your Premature Baby
There is alot to learn about the NICU and having a premature baby.
Trust me, it can be overwhelming!
I want to teach and provide key information that parents can use to make their NICU journey a little bit easier.
Your baby will be going through many challenges.
The key is to understand why these challenges are happening and how you can help your baby.
In my blogs, I will be talking about the common problems premature babies face such as
- Brain bleeds and developmental delays
- Breathing concerns, bradycardia/Apneas
- feeding problems
- infection prevention
- Mom guilt ( this is huge!!)
I will explain the problems that each gestation will face and what you can do as a parent to help your baby. So stay tuned for these blogs!
Just remember our babies are soo strong and they are always fighting.
So we should never give up on them.
Always have hope and faith that everything will eventually work out.
If you have any questions about the content on my blog, feel free to email me.
Common Questions/FAQ About Premature Babies
What is a premature baby?
A premature baby is a baby born earlier than 37 wks. These babies will be small, need help with breathing, feeding and temperature control. The earliest a baby was born and survived is 22 wks. The earlier the baby is born, the more challenges they will face.
Why does premature labour happen?
There are many reasons why premature labour happens. Many of the reasons you have no control over. This includes placenta problems, cervix problems and your water breaking early. Other reasons like poor nutrition, alcohol/drug use you can control and choose to change your lifestyle to have a healthy pregnancy. To this day, we still don’t really know why some mothers go into premature labour if there are no risk factors present. Check out this blog to learn more about premature birth causes.
My baby was born premature at __wks. How long will he/she be in the hospital?
Every baby is different and it depends on the gestation they were born at. The golden rule is babies will be in the NICU until their due date. But getting discharged depends on many factors such as feeding, bradycardia, breathing and weight gain. Babies that are born less than 29 wks will have more challenges and it takes them longer to learn how to feed properly and be breathing well. So these babies ( not all) will usually stay in the hospital pass their due date to overcome these obstacles. In my blog, I will talk about the average hospital stay for each gestation. So stay tuned!
Also, check out this post, Gifts for Preemies, for great personalized items you can get for your baby while they are in the hospital.
Why do babies go to the NICU?
Babies (premature and term) go to the NICU if they need extra medical interventions and help with breathing, feeding or anything else. Premature babies are the most common residents of the NICU because they need NICU care to survive. Otherwise, premature babies are very small, they can’t breathe on their own, and can’t function due to their organs being underdeveloped. Term babies ( babies born at 9 months) come to the NICU usually because of breathing support, blood sugar problems or infection. Check out this blog post, 6 Reasons Why Babies need NICU Care, to learn more about which babies need to be admitted in the NICU.
My baby was born premature at ___wks. What complications/problems are to be expected?
Every gestation has its own specific challenge they will face. The most common problems for all premature babies is needing extra breathing support via ventilators or CPAP, bradycardia and desats, feeding problems and learning how to feed, infections and brain bleeds. In my blog, I will review the challenges of each gestation and what parents can do to help their baby.
My baby was born premature at ___wks. Will there be any developmental delays and how do I monitor this?
This is a hard question because every baby is different and they each reach their milestones at different times. Learn more about the difference between corrected and actual age in this post. Most preemies behave and reach the developmental milestones of their corrected age. I will also talk about the common developmental stages of any baby and how you can use this for your preemie baby.
How do I cope with the guilt of leaving my baby everyday in the NICU?
This is really hard!! There really isn’t one answer to this. All NICU moms go through this feeling. What I found that really helped me is knowing my son needed the NICU care and I was doing everything I can to be there and present when I was visiting. We are humans and we need to accept that we can’t be at the hospital all day every day. We need our rest as well so we can recover. Check out this blog post for more advice: 9 Tips to Conquer Moms Guilt.
My baby is not taking the full bottle and having feeding problems
Oh feeding!!! This is the most common problem that holds NICU babies back from going home. In my blog, I will provide amazing and essential tips that any parent can use to help their baby with feeding and hopefully bring them home sooner.
Once your baby is discharged, you will notice that your baby likes to drink warm milk. This is because, in the NICU, all milk is warmed in a bottle warmer. A portable bottle warmer is great to use inside the house and when you leave the house for appointments. In this blog post, I explained the top 3 portable bottle warmers on the market. Check it out!
The Last Thing You Need to Know about the Care of a Premature Baby
This NICU journey is not easy… its a rollercoaster ride of emotions.
There are days where you feel you are getting bad news after bad news and nothing is getting better.
But remember this hardship will end and you will get through it.
Your baby will love you for it!
With every hardship comes ease…. so never give up and keep pushing!
If anything on my blog has helped you, please make sure to share the post, comment below the post and subscribe to my email list for more goodies.
I would love to hear from you!