Premature babies have become a common phenomenon in the country. A premature infant is a baby born before 37 completed weeks of gestation. Mothers with the health conditions such as diabetes, heart disease and High Blood Pressure may contribute to preterm labor and about 15% of all premature births are multiple pregnancies (twins, triplets, etc.) Having a Preterm baby impacts the mothers psychologically; they often tend to feel guilty as their breast may not produce enough milk because the hormonal stimulation to her body has been less. But what the mothers do not realise is that the preterm baby would require less amount of milk and the same produced by the mother is sufficient.
Breast feeding is most important for baby for their first 6 months; breast milk has important ingredients which help to build the baby’s immune systems and these are not found in any infant instant formula available in the market. Breast milk changes from feed to feed to suit each baby’s unique needs making it the perfect food to promote healthy growth and development. Breastfed babies are rarely constipated and are less likely to get diarrhea.
A preterm baby faces difficulties to suck the breast milk as this involves lot of energy. In such cases babies should be fed breast milk using a bowl and a spoon. The mothers have to be taught on how to express breast milk manually or with a breast pump. Bottle and nipple feeding should not be encouraged as the baby can get used to this which is smooth and later the baby could not suck the breast milk which involves vigorous process.
In addition, the babies have to be protected from various other infections by maintaining hygiene and babies need to be kept warm right after birth. They should be dried thoroughly and placed on their mother’s chest after the umbilical cord has been clamped and cut, with skin-to-skin contact, until after the first breastfeed especially for babies born at term with good birth weight. Most babies will breathe normally after thorough drying. Those who do not start breathing on their own need help: ventilation with a bag and mask will usually put them back on track.
The Premature baby needs to stay warm and dry. He needs to be kept clean, and have enough fluids and nourishment. Premature babies can’t keep themselves warm at first, partly because they have not built up stores of body fat. Hence the mothers are advised to do Kangaroo Care – a technique where the premature baby is placed in an upright position on its mother’s bare chest allowing tummy to tummy contact that positions the baby between the mother’s breasts. The baby’s head is turned so that its ear is positioned above the mother’s heart. This care has several benefits, including establishing an enduring bond between parent and child through touch and smell. The process can help regulate the baby’s heart and breathing rates, increase weight, calm the baby, provide deeper sleep, and regulate temperature.
With good medical care, timely feeding, strict hygiene, post–discharge care and, warmth of the parents and following your pediatricians’ advice will help a premature baby beat all odds to be a healthy little bundle of joy.
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