Giving birth to a healthy baby is every woman’s wish. However, some pregnant women give birth prematurely, which sometimes comes with certain complications.
Move! speaks to experts – Lynn Bluff who is a registered nurse and midwife, as well as Nthabiseng Leso, a senior brand manager for Huggies – about everything you need to know about premature babies.
What is a premature baby?
Lynn says a premature baby is a baby who is born before the start of the 37th week of pregnancy. Normally, a pregnancy lasts about 40 weeks. “Depending on how early a baby is born, he or she may be late pre-term (born between 34 and 36 weeks of pregnancy).
Once you reach 37 weeks of pregnancy, your baby is what’s called full-term. Premature babies, especially those born earliest, often have medical problems,” she says. “Premature babies born after 32 weeks have a good chance of surviving and growing up to be healthy whilst survival chances decrease for those born earlier than 32 weeks.”
Challenges of being born premature
Lynn says premature babies need special care to overcome the following challenges:
- Staying warm: Pre-term babies lose body heat more easily, meaning that they need extra energy and care to stay warm and grow.
- Feeding: Pre-term babies can have trouble feeding because their suck and swallow reflex is not yet fully developed. They may need to be fed through a tube.
- Breathing: If the lungs are not fully developed, pre-term babies may have difficulty breathing and need to be placed on a ventilator to help them breathe.
- Infections: Infections are more common among pre-term babies because their immune systems are not yet fully developed. They have a higher risk of dying if they get an infection.
- Bleeding: Some babies experience bleeding or lack of oxygen to the brain. This can result in cerebral palsy and developmental delays.
Taking care of a premature baby
Nthabiseng explains that even with all the challenges that premature babies face, they still have a good chance of growing up healthy. She adds that there are techniques that parents can use to take care of their babies.
- Kangaroo care: Kangaroo care is a technique where a premature baby is placed in an upright position on the mother’s bare chest, allowing skin to skin contact. Studies have shown that Kangaroo care offers great benefits for these babies.
- Talk to your baby: The baby can be comforted by hearing your voice.
- Use Huggies Preemies® Nappies: The nappies, which fit correctly, are highly absorbent and made from soft and breathable materials suitable for the babies’ skin.