Babies born between twenty four and thirty seven weeks of gestation are considered premature babies. There could be various reasons why a mother gives birth to a premature baby. It could be because of poor maternal health, previous complicated pregnancies, or abnormalities of the uterus.
The vast majority of low-birth weight babies do very well. However, the smaller and less mature a baby is, the more likely she is to encounter certain challenges or complications. And each reacts to these in her own unique way
Around one premature baby in 10 has a breathing problem, and the earlier baby is born, the more likely this is. Possible reasons include:
- Small, immature lungs
- Weak breathing muscles
- A soft ribcage
- ‘Stop-breathing’ attacks
- Respiratory distress syndrome
- A hole in the membrane around a lung, making it collapse
An unborn baby’s brain size quadruples between 24 and 40 weeks. The brain of a premature baby — especially one born before 28 weeks — is smaller, less well developed and more vulnerable than that of a full-term baby.
Difficulties in feeding due to slow sucking reflex:
Some premature babies may find it difficult to feed as their sucking and swallowing reflex has not developed fully. The doctor will assess the progress on feeding — in some cases the baby may be fed through a tube till he/she is stronger.
Difficulty in maintaining body temperature:
Some babies may not be able to regulate their body temperature as their brain is still immature. They are kept in incubators, under overhead heating lights until they are stronger and have developed enough to be shifted out.
What you can do:
All babies need a lot of care — but it is true that premature babies will require specialised care and there may be more challenges to face. Try not to worry and be patient. Don’t get disheartened if your baby has not reached a milestone, which his peers have crossed — remember premature babies may have different growth patterns. Always mention your baby’s due date and birth date to the doctor when you take him for a checkup.
Be watchful and call your doctor immediately if you observe any of the following:
- A sudden drop in body temperature
- Difficulty in sucking or feeding
- Any discharge or bleeding from the eyes, ears or cord
- Irregular breathing patterns
- Difficulty in breathing
- Bluish tint to the body