Taking Care of Premature Babies at Home: Everything You Need to Know
Bringing a baby home is exciting but also scary for new parents. But bringing a premature baby home is even more daunting. However, despite your worries, you should know it’s not much different than caring for a normal-term baby, with just some extra cautions. Here are some basic things you need to consider and be prepared for when taking care of a preemie baby at home:
Monitor temperature- Like all new-borns, premature babies need to be kept at a safe temperature till their bodies adapt to the world outside. If it’s cold, add more layers of clothing, if it’s hot, remove a few clothes. But be careful not to overload the baby with excess heat (or cold with ACs).
Monitor their body temperature at regular intervals to get an idea; ideal body temperature should be 36.5-37.3 C (97.6-99.1 F).
Ample sleep- Babies need a lot of sleep. However, if the baby is not sleeping normally, adjust their environment by pulling in the curtains or adjusting the lights. Some preterm babies may get hungry soon and need frequent feedings to properly fall asleep.
Cleaning- While cleaning is important, preterm babies cannot tolerate hot baths, shampoo, cleansers, or oil/lotions. Only use warm water and prefer sponging in the initial days.
Now for the serious parts, though it is rare, a condition known as SIDS may happen to premature infants slightly more than regular term. SIDS stands for Sudden Infant Death Syndrome and also known as cot death. While it can happen to anyone and doctors aren’t sure what causes it, there is a belief that preventive measures can be taken.
Here is what you need to do to make sure your child sleeps safely and wakes up happy:
·Don’t let the baby sleep on their stomach, it may hamper breathing.
· Overheating is one of the major causes, so make them sleep on their back and regulate the temperature.
· Don’t add pillows/blankets/stuffed toys top the cot, they might interfere with their breathing.
· Try to avoid sleeping in the same bed. A stranded hand or rolling over would potentially crush the tiny preemie baby.
· Breastfeeding has been associated with easier sleep and a healthier immune system for kids than formula-fed infants.
Some other things to consider:
Preemies don’t have any immunity. Avoid going outside with them or letting them come in contact with anyone coming from the outside, possibly carrying a plethora of germs.
Practise kangaroo care which basically means more skin-on-skin contact with the baby. Preferably, hold the baby (with only a nappy) onto your chest and let them breathe calmly.
It’s also good for mother-child bonding.
Be prepared for emergencies. Keep a track of the nearest hospital with the best infant care and NICU. It is possible for a preemie to need emergency care, even life support. Be emotionally and physically prepared for that.