While waiting for the arrival of our baby, many questions and fears invade us. The main concern is health. We fear that the delivery will be ahead of due time and be at risk. What should I do if my newborn is premature? We share these premature newborn care: what are they?
Premature babies are born before 37 weeks. The World Health Organization (WHO) classifies them in this way:
- Extremely premature: Less than 28 weeks.
- Very premature: Between 28 and 32 weeks.
- Moderate to late preterm: 32 to 37 weeks.
Rodrigo Osegueda Mayén, a specialist in pediatrics and neonatology at Hospital Ángeles, explains that 25% of all baby weight is obtained in the last trimester of pregnancy; the brain grows 40% during this stage.
In Mexico, 200,000 premature births are registered each year, while the figure is 15 million globally, according to data from the Ministry of Health. Technological advances have increased the survival of these little ones.
“In our country, around 30% of those born before 28 weeks died. Today the mortality has decreased, around 15% and 18%; it depends on the hospital where they are born, it can lower up to 10%”
Dr. Osegueda Mayén
Characteristics of premature babies
The specialist explained that premature newborns are not fully prepared for life outside the womb as they are underweight, lose heat quickly, and require help feeding.
In addition, they have respiratory difficulties and are susceptible to infections since their lungs and immune system are not mature.
For this reason, they require specialized attention from hospital neonatology units, where they are given multidisciplinary care involving pediatricians, neonatologists, nurses, and even nutrition specialists.
When can my baby go home?
Víctor Armando Durán Lozada, head of the Pediatrics and Neonatology Service of the Pediatric Gynecology Hospital of the Mexican Institute of Social Security (IMSS), comments that the stay of a premature newborn in hospital depends on the weeks of gestation with which they are born, their weight and the complications that they present.
“The closer he is born to the 38 weeks, his stay may be one to two weeks. If he is born at less than 32 weeks, he requires mechanical ventilation due to lung immature and hospitalization may be for more than one month”.
He indicates that the follow-up of the little one goes according to the weeks of gestation: neurological, auditory, visual potentials, and early stimulation; in addition, surveillance of the pediatrics and nutrition area is required to monitor the development of babies.
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A premature baby will require a lot of care, even after leaving the hospital. These are some measures recommended by the National Institute of Pediatrics (INP) for the care of premature babies:
- Daily bath: With lukewarm water and, preferably, in a tub. Use soaps with a slightly acidic pH.
- Moisturizing: To moisturize the skin, use hypoallergenic cream.
- Basic equipment: Have a thermometer and a rubber bulb to extract boogers from his nose. If your little one has pulmonary dysplasia, you will need oxygen at home and an oximeter.
- Sleep on his back: Lay your baby on his back; in this way, we prevent the little one from suffocating and causing crib death.
In addition to these recommendations, the organization Nemours Kids Health advises:
- Avoid public places and visitors: Because his immune system is not fully mature, contact with other people should be avoided.
- Skin-to-skin contact: Place your baby on your chest so that he listens to your heart to bond with your little one.
- Cleaning: Before touching the baby, it is essential to wash your hands.
Premature baby follow-up
Dr. Osegueda Mayén explained that the premature baby must have a close follow-up with a neonatologist to monitor his development during the first two years of life.
“Up to two years old, the age is corrected, it means that if a baby was born in week 28, he is 12 weeks old, so until he is two years old, the specialist should see him. Not because we see that he has already gained weight, but we should not stop taking him to the doctor and provide an adequate follow-up”.
With proper care, your little one will grow up healthy and strong.
Translated by: Ligia M. Oliver Manrique de Lara