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How to take care of your premature baby at home

Worried about your premature baby's well-being? Here are tips to help you.

Written by Poorva Chavan |Updated : November 26, 2015 10:40 AM IST

Babies born before completing 36 weeks in the womb are premature babies. Their organs are not fully developed and they don't have a strong immune system to fight infections and hence, need more care and attention than babies born full term. A premature baby is under complete care of the doctor and experts when in the hospital but the biggest challenge arises when the baby comes home from the hospital. Here are some tips on how to take care of your premature baby.

1. Listen ONLY to your pediatrician:Dr Kishore Sanghvi, Consultant Neonatologist and Paediatrician says that parents should strictly follow what their doctor tells them and avoid doing anything that any good-willing relative might suggest. It is important to remember that the doctor knows best.

2. Ensure the baby gets enough nutrition: Breastmilk is the best nutrition any baby can get, and it holds true even in the case of preemies. If your baby does not latch to your breasts, express the milk and try to give it to the baby with the help of other tools. Also, express the milk and store it for the baby if you have to work and can't be present for the baby for a long time. Do not give your baby anything else like cow's or buffalo's milk and don't even think about feeding formula. Here's why.

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3. Prevent Infections: Preventing infections is one of the most important aspects of a premature baby's care. Immunity is built in the last three months of pregnancy and since the babies don't complete their term, their immunity is severely complicated. Dr Ruchi Nanavati, Professor and Head of Department of Neonatology, Neonative Intensive Care Unit, says that it is a must that you avoid visitors after the baby comes home.

4. Keep the baby warm: Dr Nanavati explains that babies feel safe and secure when they are in close contact with the mother. Mothers should use the kangaroo care approach that involves placing the baby in between the breasts. This way the child can hear the mother's heartbeat, and it also keeps the baby warm and makes it feel secure which helps their growth. Kangaroo care is not just limited to the mother, it can be given by a male member of the family too.

5. Don't indulge in AYUSH medicines: AYUSH is Ayurveda, Yoga & Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha and Homeopathy. Dr Sanghvi warns against the use of any these medicines or resorting to any of these medical practices. He explains that like there is no proof that they cause any harm, there is no evidence that they benefit as well.

6. Regular check-ups and follow-ups: Premature babies are more likely to suffer from various complications like eye disorders, respiratory distress syndrome (RDS), etc. A premature baby should be regularly screened for any of these complications. Dr Nanavati says that it is important to realise that premature babies are born earlier than full term babies and hence take those many weeks longer to reach a particular developmental milestone. In routine check-ups, the doctor checks whether the baby is growing properly or not.

7. Watch out for danger signs: Since the premature baby is not fully developed in the womb, there are high chances that it might develop certain complications. They exhibit certain danger signs that the parents should pick up on and get immediate medical attention. Remember the sequence-ABCDDH. A-apnea, B- breathing difficulties, C- cold hands and feet, C- convulsions, D-decreased feed, D- decreased activity, H-hyperthermia/hypothermia. If the baby shows any of these signs, it best to visit the doctor immediately. Read about the dangers of premature birth.

8. Spend time with the baby: It is a must that the mother spends a lot of time with a premature baby. It not only makes the baby feel warm and secure but also helps in creating a bond between the two. You can also talk or sing to them to soothe them. Find out how the mother's sound helps premature babies.

Image source: Shutterstock

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