Taking your preterm baby home can be a difficult and challenging task. Taking care of a preterm baby, especially by new parents is much more different than taking care of a newborn baby. It is like a new phase of life for both the parents. A premature baby weighs just 1-1.5 kgs and it can be troublesome as the babies are already so small size. You just need to make some changes in your environment to make the baby feel comfortable in the new surrounding. And, your pediatrician can guide you through the new things and changes that you need to make. You can take helpful advices about feeding, sleeping and other aspects from an expert.
The first thing to keep in mind is to always set in the neonatal ICU and observe how the nurses hold and take care of the baby by managing your baby yourself. You should also know other things like how to feed the baby, how the body temperature should be maintained, how the baby should be bathed among other things. Usually, hospitals have learning sessions of the preterm babies with mothers for atleast 2-3 days for better understanding and to ensure that the baby can be given proper care outside the hospital. Onlymyhealth editorial team spoke to Dr. Benny Benjamin, Senior Consultant Pediatrician & Neonatologist, Fortis Malar Hospital, about some important tips for new parents to take care of a premature baby.
How to take care of a premature baby?
A normal pregnancy is for 40 weeks, but a premature baby takes birth before the 37th week. There are many complications associated with an early delivery, so the baby should always feel warm, washed and happy. Along with the newborn, you as parents also need to take care of your diet and sleeping routines. According to Dr. Benny, here are 7 important tips for parents on how to take care of a premature baby:
1. Take care of the temperature
Babies are prone to getting ill very soon, so we must give extra attention to premature babies as they are more fragile. We must take of the baby's body temperature as well as the surrounding's temperature should be ideally maintained at 27°c. The room temperature can range between 24-28°. This is done so that the body does not waste any energy in regulating the body's temperature. Keeping the baby away from cold environment also helps him to save himself from pneumonia and cold. Body temperature should be noted atleast 3-4 times a day, so that we can know at the earliest when the baby is not well, and get appropriate medical treatment. One should also avoid going in the sun with the baby for longer hours.
2. Practice kangaroo care
Skin to skin touch or contact is very healthy for humans especially new born babies. It helps you to connect and bond with your baby. Baby is layed naked (with only diaper) on mother's chest (also bare) so that baby's skin touches mother's skin, we generally cover the baby with a blanket which very much looks like a baby in pouch and hence the name. It helps to regulate heartbeat and breathing in the baby. It also helps to maintain the baby's body temperature, it has showed signs of better sleep and proper breastfeeding sessions. It also helps the baby to stop crying, and better emotional bond with the mother. kangaroo care has shown very healthy weight gains in babies.
3. Bathing your baby safely
The skin of new born babies is very delicate so it dries out very quickly. Bathing them in every 2-4 days is more than enough. We must take care that until the umbilical cord is attached, we must not bathe a baby, but you can definitely sponge bathe them. However, you should be careful that you use soft cotton cloth to wipe them. And, do not use any shampoos or soaps on your baby. Give them a bath safely and choose a warm place for the baby's bathing session. The baby feels tired and sleepy after taking a bath so you can feed him/her after bathing for a good and deep sleep. Avoid using any bathing products on your newborn as he has an extremely sensitive skin during this time.
5. Keep everything clean
Premature babies have a very low immunity, hence everything around them should be kept clean and sanitised. We must take care to regularly boil and clean the utensils, if bottle is given to the new born for feeding, it should also be properly cleaned and boiled in order to kill germs. Water that is used for bathing or drinking should also be clean. Using boiled water is the best way to keep the baby free from germs. Pre mature babies are prone to getting upset stomach, and various other infections, so we must take care that even the bedsheets used for the infant should be regularly changed. The baby should not be exposed to dust and you should take the baby in the other room while you are dusting the room.
6. Take care of the baby's nutrition
Premature babies are generally very weak and underweight, hence we must take special care of the baby and their feeding patterns should be fixed. We must also take care that the baby gets enough sleep, which is very essential for the growth of the baby. In this case where the baby is very much dependent on their mother for nutrition, we must take care of providing enough nutrition to the mother so that she can produce enough milk to nourish their baby. You can talk to your health care expert about breastfeeding or bottle feeding needs. You might have to keep your baby strictly on a liquid diet for the first few weeks, but he/she should not miss out on the nutrition.
7. Care for dry skin
If your new born has dry skin, do not use any cosmetic moisturising product without talking to your healthcare expert for some helping advice. You can slowly start using some gentle baby products and baby wipes as your baby becomes older and their skin more resisting. Another thing your need to take care of is that when you wash your baby, just use only water and do not use any shampoo or soaps initially. And, you don't need to give them a bath daily. You can also use cotton balls soaked in warm water to wash their bottom, face and neck, hence a dry bath. When your baby's skin is wet, he might feel cold easily. When they get wet and then dried, they lose a little body heat everytime. Therefore, wash them in a warm place and keep a towel nearby to wrap them quickly.
These were the tips that should be followed by the parents of premature babies. You can try out these simple steps to take care of your little one. Along with these measures, you also need to prevent your baby from sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) or cot death. There are other important tips for the same that you should be aware about. Premature babies are at a higher risk of getting certain health problems, therefore they require special care and attention during growth and development.
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