- Preemies are more than just tiny babies — their needs are unique.
- What special challenges may be ahead for you and your preemie and how to prepare.
In the United States, nearly 1 in 8 babies are born premature—meaning they’re born before 37 weeks of pregnancy. Premature babies are also going home from the hospital earlier. This is great news, as it means more preemies are surviving and thriving!
Besides being smaller than most term babies, preemies can face a variety of challenges. Their organ systems may not have fully developed before birth—leading to health- and nutrition-related issues. However, many preemies go on to grow well and develop to their full potential. Remember, each baby is unique and should be expected to progress at their own rate. If you have any concerns, be sure to speak with your doctor.
Special care at home
Most premature babies spend some time in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) or a Special Care Nursery. There, they are monitored closely and given near-constant care. Your baby’s medical team will let you know when to anticipate your baby’s discharge, in order to give you time to get prepared to take her home.
Each baby is different, but in general, the NICU staff will look for a few key signs that indicate your baby is ready to go home:
- She’s able to maintain his body temperature in an open crib for 24 to 48 hours.
- She’s eating well by mouth, and not requiring any supplemental tube feedings.
- She’s gaining weight at a steady pace.
When your baby is ready to be discharged from the hospital, you may feel excited and scared at the same time. These feelings are completely normal. Your baby’s medical team should provide you the information you need to feel comfortable taking your baby home. Expect to learn about the following:
- How to take her temperature.
- How to give medications.
- Instructions for use of any medical equipment.
- How to make sure she’s getting enough nutrition.
You are you're baby's best advocate! Ask any and all questions you need to feel prepared to head home with her
Bringing your preemie home from the NICU is a significant milestone. Creating a safe and healthy environment at home is important, and being prepared will help you have a more enjoyable homecoming with your baby.
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