Doctor’s guide to taking good care of a premature baby at home

24 November,2023 12:01 AM IST |  Mumbai  |  mid-day online correspondent

One of the most critical aspects of caring for premature babies is ensuring that their environment is safe and supportive

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Taking care of a premature baby requires vigilance, patience, and knowledge about their unique needs. It is essential to create a safe environment, provide them with adequate nutrition tailored to their requirements, and embrace practices like kangaroo care that foster bonding and well-being of premature babies.

A preterm baby, also known as a premature baby, is a term used to describe infants who are born before 37 weeks of gestation. One of the most significant concerns for preterm babies is their underdeveloped organs. Their lungs, in particular, pose a significant challenge as they struggle to produce enough surfactant - a substance necessary for proper lung function.

It is not uncommon for these tiny fighters to require specialised medical interventions such as respiratory support or artificial surfactant administration. Another aspect to consider is the potential long-term effects on development. Due to their premature birth, preterm babies may face cognitive delays or physical impairments.

These babies are kept in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) for observation and improving their well-being. Moreover, once the baby is discharged, it is essential to take utmost care of them at home too.

Dr Atul Palwe, consultant paediatrician and neonatologist, Motherhood Hospital, Lullanagar, Pune sharing crucial tips on how parents should take care of their premature baby.

One of the most critical aspects of caring for premature babies is ensuring that their environment is safe and supportive. Premature babies are more vulnerable to infections, so it's essential to keep them away from anyone who might be sick.

Maintaining a clean and sterile environment can help prevent the spread of germs. Be diligent about washing your hands thoroughly before coming into contact with your baby, and encourage others to do the same.

Premature babies often have difficulty with oral feeding, so they may require specialised formulas or breast milk supplements. It's important to work closely with experts to ensure that your baby gets the right nutrients in the appropriate amounts. Some premature babies may also need feeding tubes or other interventions to support their growth and development.

Engaging in kangaroo care can have numerous benefits for both you and your premature baby. Kangaroo care involves skin-to-skin contact, where you hold your baby close against your chest for extended periods. This practice provides comfort, warmth, and security for the baby while promoting bonding between parent and child. It also helps regulate the baby's body temperature and breathing patterns while reducing stress levels in both parties involved.

Prioritise your baby's health by implementing strict visitor limitations at home. Regular follow-ups are crucial in safeguarding against infections, allergies, and diseases. Additionally, maintain a clean living space and practice proper hand hygiene before and after interacting with the baby.

Minimise your outings away from home to only essential medical visits during the initial few weeks, especially in winter. Due to the high likelihood of encountering other sick children at hospitals or clinics, it is advisable to schedule your appointment for early morning or inquire about waiting in an examination room rather than the common waiting area.

It is crucial to stay on top of your baby's vaccination schedule as advised by the pediatrician. Furthermore, all members of the household and anyone who frequently interacts with your baby should be up to date on their immunisation and have already received their seasonal flu shot.

While the journey of a preterm baby may be challenging and uncertain at times, with advanced medical care and unwavering support from doctors and loved ones alike, these little souls have a chance to live a healthy life.

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