Nov 14, 2023 /
By Connie Russell, FNP-C / Draper
While every parent anticipates having a perfect pregnancy, a healthy baby, and a delivery free of complications, unfortunately, that’s not always the case. As many as ten percent of all babies are born prematurely every year. These babies need special care both in and out of the hospital for weeks, months, and sometimes years down the road.
Babies born before 37 weeks gestation are considered to be born premature. While the care needed for a baby born at 28 weeks gestation differs significantly from the care needed for a baby born at 36 weeks, additional support will be necessary for all preterm infants.
Not all premature deliveries can be prevented, but there are things you can do to lower your chances of having a premature delivery. These include eating healthy, taking a daily prenatal vitamin, getting adequate prenatal care, and managing chronic diseases.
Premature babies have specialized needs and require care in a specialized setting. One of the most significant advancements in premature baby care is the development of Neonatal Intensive Care Units (NICUs). These specialized units are equipped with state-of-the-art medical equipment and staffed by highly trained healthcare professionals who specialize in caring for premature infants.
NICUs provide a controlled environment where premature babies can thrive as they receive the intensive medical care they require. Utah has 26 hospitals that provide NICU care. Two of the primary care needs for NICU babies include respiratory support and help with feeding and nutrition.
Many premature babies are born with underdeveloped lungs, making it difficult for them to breathe independently. Advances in respiratory care have introduced technologies such as non-invasive ventilation and equipment that allow monitoring of lung function. Parents should be reassured that NICUs are well-equipped to provide respiratory support as needed.
Feeding preterm infants can be a complex process. Babies born prematurely often have difficulty breastfeeding or taking a bottle due to difficulty with coordinating a suck-swallow-breathe pattern that allows for successful feeding. Thankfully, neonatal nutritionists, speech therapists, and lactation consultants work together to develop personalized feeding plans to support each baby’s growth and development needs. Additionally, some NICUs offer donor breast milk to provide essential nutrients and immune support for premature infants.
The ultimate goal of premature baby care is to see your little one healthy and thriving. As your baby’s health improves and they gain weight, you’ll be able to bring them home. Before discharge, NICU staff will provide guidance on feeding, medication, and follow-up appointments.
It’s essential to maintain open communication with your pediatrician and continue regular check-ups to monitor your baby’s growth and development. Your baby may need additional support with feedings, additional weight checks, and evaluation of oxygen status. These are all areas in which your pediatrician can provide support. Your pediatrician will also help ensure follow-up with any necessary specialists.
Caring for a premature baby can be a challenging journey, but with the advancements in neonatal medicine, the outlook for preterm infants has greatly improved. You can take comfort in knowing that the healthcare providers at Wasatch Pediatrics have the knowledge, expertise, and technology to give your premature baby the best possible care. By being actively involved in your baby’s care, seeking support when needed, and staying informed, you can help ensure that your little one enjoys a brighter, healthier future. While the road may be tough, remember that the love and care you provide are invaluable in helping your preterm baby thrive.
©2023 Wasatch Pediatrics