Premature babies need more care and support as compared to normal babies. It is important for parents to be very careful with them. World Prematurity Day is celebrated worldwide each year on November 17. This day is celebrated to highlight preterm births (birth before 37 completed weeks) and its challenges.
The Global Theme for World Prematurity Day 2022 is ‘A parent’s embrace: a powerful therapy’. To know about the essential support and care practices for premature babies, OnlyMyHealth editorial team spoke to Dr Nidhi Gupta, Senior Consultant, Department of Neonatology, Amrita Hospital, Faridabad. This is what she had to say:
Support Care Practices For Premature Babies
Touch (Tactile sensation) is the first sense to develop when a baby is in mother’s womb followed by our other senses – Olfactory (sense of smell), Gustatory (taste sensation), Auditory (hearing), and Vision (seeing). Some of the good developmental supportive care practises doctors follow at their unit include:
1. Early Skin To Skin Contact
Your aim is to establish skin to skin contact right from birth and help our parents of preterm babies establish Kangaroo Mother Care (KMC). This is named after kangaroos holding their babies in their pouch after birth. Likewise, doctors help mothers and even fathers hold their diaper clad baby skin to skin. This practice has been there for more than four decades now and is backed up by a lot of scientific evidence. It helps keep the babies warm, stabilises their breathing, heart rate, and helps in reducing pain in mothers post caesarean birth. It also improves bonding, breastfeeding, and in allaying parental anxiety.
2. Frequent Expression Of Breast Milk
We have advanced breast pumps, separate rest and express rooms for mothers to support the frequent expression of breast milk.
3. Olfactory Stimulation
Doctors encourage parents to keep a pair of muslin cloth handy. Mothers keep one next to them during expression of breastmilk 24x7 and it is interchanged with the baby so that mother can have the scent of the baby and vice versa. Mother’s scent serves as a positive stimulus for the baby. Keeping light and sound to a minimum in our NICU based on American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommendations.
4. Quiet Hour
For one hour each in the day and night lights are dimmed, all elective procedures are avoided to ensure protected sleep and brain growth for the babies
5. Auditory Stimulation
Parents are encouraged to talk/sing to their baby during care. Evidence positively links this to building of vocabulary later.
6. Position support
Nesting and position rolls are made to help feel babies secure and well contained.
7. Care during painful procedures
By offering drops of mother’s milk orally prior to any procedure or dextrose if the baby is nil orally, which means the baby may not eat or drink anything for a period of time according to doctor’s instructions.
8. Diaper changing
Diaper changing should be done on the side-lying position as this is better than lifting both legs up.
Some useful early stimulation advices for families after discharge:
1. Parents are the best toys for their babies – Talk/sing to your baby. Talk in baby language, embrace them, give them hugs and cuddles.
2. FaceTime – Not the “iPhone” but the parent’s face is important. Once preterm babies reach their due date, they are likely to fix their gaze and follow your gaze from side to side so make eye contact with them, try to get their attention to your face and take it side to side.
3. Massage – It should only be done by the mother. Coconut oil is recommended based on various studies. Technique has to be taught.
4. Tummy Time – Only in an awake state, put them on their stomach (half an hour after feeding). Start with two minutes two to three times a day and gradually increase. This helps develop their core strength and head and neck muscles.
Journey from NICU to home can be challenging with multiple hospital visits and follow up appointments for ROP check (eye check for Retinopathy of Prematurity), Hearing check, Growth and Neurodevelopment follow up etc, but we are there to help you in this journey aiming at ‘intact’ survival. We also offer Occupational Therapy etc for Early Intervention where needed.