Babies born before their due date may need extra special care up to the age of 24 months. After leaving the hospital, new parents of premature babies must be equipped with the knowledge and preparation to properly care for their infant at home. Having a baby who needs extra care is a big adjustment for everyone in the household. General parenting books can be helpful, but further advice is needed for the new aspects of life with a premature baby.
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Feeding a Premature Baby
Oftentimes, premature babies need more calories than babies born at 40 weeks. Pediatricians often suggest formulas such as “NeoSure,” which is 22 calories per ounce, rather than the normal 20. This will ensure the baby gets nourishment in the beginning stages.
It may be difficult to get a premature baby to eat as often as they may need. They need to be fed on a strict schedule, but oftentimes fall asleep mid-feeding or forget to suck on the bottle. There are a few tricks to getting premature babies to feed. First, lightly tickle them just under the chin. This activates their reflex to suck, which will then get them to swallow. Another little trick is to blow lightly in their face. This keeps them awake and aware during feeding times.
All preemie bottles must be sterilized before given to a premature baby. This is especially important because they are so susceptible to germs and diseases. If a bottle sterilizer is not purchased, boil bottles and nipples for at least five minutes prior to use. These bottles can then be cleaned and are ready for use. Discard any opened pre-mixed formula after 48 hours. Discard any formula within one hour that has touched the baby in any way. Keep opened formula in the refrigerator.
If breastfeeding, you can get nursing bras and covers from websites like BabySteals.com. This will allow you to make life easier and more convenient when feeding your little one.
Keeping a Premature Baby Warm
To make sure that the baby is not burning off those much needed calories by trying to keep itself warm, premature babies need to be bundled at all time. This includes having their head covered in a preemie hat. While not overheating the baby, the best way to keep an infant at a safe temperature is with layers. A baby often needs one more layer than an adult, so you can bet that if you are cold, the infant is cold.
After baths, it is important to get the baby wrapped up and warm quickly. This will lessen the time that they are exposed to chilly air.
Protect a Premature Baby from Illness
Only people who absolutely need to see the baby during its first weeks of life should be allowed. People should not be coming in and out of the house on a regular basis, tracking in germs. Before touching the baby, anyone should wash their hands or use a hand sanitizer. Until the baby is stronger, the threat of infection is pretty serious. Do not let pets around the baby, especially while unattended.
All of this being said, parents of premature babies have to balance their lives with the situation they have on their hands. Some tips seem straightforward, but everyone’s home life is different. A family with older children may have a more difficult time avoiding contact with unnecessary people and families with small homes and pets may have a harder time keeping the animals completely away from the baby. Having a premature baby is tough, so being confident in your caretaking abilities is important.