A full-term pregnancy typically lasts between 37 and 40 weeks. Any infant classed as being premature is born too early (before 37 weeks), meaning they will have missed out on crucial weeks of growth and development.
As a result, there are often more health risks associated with premature infants than with full-term babies. Yet this isn’t always the case! Many premature babies will grow to be completely healthy with little to no complications.
Here are some of the most important facts about premature babies.
They Will Fall Into Different Preterm Birth Categories
Despite being born much sooner, a lot of premature babies will have a normal and healthy start to life, and will quickly begin to develop like their full-term counterparts. However, the earlier they are born, the more likely it is that they’ll have developmental issues.
There are a few different categories of premature babies, including:
Late Preterm babies are born just a little early, between 34 and 36 weeks.
Moderately preterm infants are born between 32 and 34 weeks.
Very preterm babies have a gestational age either at or below 32 weeks.
Extremely preterm infants are those born less than 28 weeks.
They Have A Lower Average Weight
The average weight of a full-term newborn is around 7.5 pounds. However, preemie babies born before 37 weeks of pregnancy generally have a low birth weight of fewer than 5 pounds and 8 ounces.
Moderately preterm babies have an average weight between 3 and 5 pounds, whereas very preterm babies usually range between 2 pounds, 7 ounces and 3 pounds, 15 ounces
(depending on the sex and gestation time). Extremely premature infants could weigh under 1 pound and 12 ounces.
Your preemie may even appear to be bird-like because they are so small and delicate-looking. But remember: your baby will gain weight at their own pace.
They May Suffer From More Illnesses
Premature babies are more prone to illnesses than full-term babies. The average child will experience one illness a month, but you can expect this figure to double with your preemie. This is because they are far more likely to develop health issues in the first few years of their life.
Some common illnesses seen in premature babies include:
- Apnea of Prematurity (AOP) refers to a pause in a premature baby’s breathing. It can last anywhere between 15 and 20 seconds.
- Jaundice will occur if your baby’s liver isn’t working correctly, or isn’t fully developed.
- Infections frequently occur in premature babies who don’t have fully formed immune systems. This makes them more susceptible to infection which could lead to neonatal sepsis.
- Necrotizing Enterocolitis (NEC) is a life-threatening condition that impacts many preemie babies. If a preemie is provided with the wrong nutrients and contracts NEC, it could result in a baby formula lawsuit.
They Require Skin-To-Skin Contact
Also known as kangaroo care, skin-to-skin contact requires you to hold your baby close to your chest. It also allows both parents to bond with their baby, especially in the cases of premature babies.
Babies are often comforted by such a strong and direct connection, which may help them to feel cozy and calm. It also might help to enhance their brain development and reduce the risk of them developing low blood sugar, sepsis, and low body temperature.
Preemie skin-to-skin is recommended for at least one hour, four or more times per week. You will usually be advised to continue this for a couple of months (usually around five or six months).
They Grow At Their Own Pace
One of the most important facts about premature babies is that their growth can’t be compared to full-term babies. They grow completely at their own pace and should never be rushed or forced.
Late preterm babies will likely be able to catch up to full-term babies quite quickly. This is because they haven’t missed out on multiple weeks of crucial developmental milestones.
Those born before 34 weeks will be more prone to slow development and setbacks. However, they will also bounce back to a “normal” growth pattern as soon as they are ready.
Extremely preterm babies will likely take the longest amount of time to recover. They might even have more lasting problems with their growth. But that’s not to say they won’t catch up eventually!
Make sure to have lots of patience with your little one.
Premature babies may often experience more life-threatening health complications than babies brought to full term. Because of this, they will require lots more love, care, and support.