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Premature Infants

Premature Infants

By: Candace Hutchins

Birth weight is the best available predictor of infant survival and healthy development. However, low birth rate is not something to be alarmed about because about half of low-weight birth weight babies have no disabilities. In order to prevent problems, parents need to be aware of ways they should care for low birth weight babies.

“Premature” babies are usually defined as babies born three weeks or more before the end of a full 38-weeks or who weigh less than 5 ½ lbs. Preterm infants are born several weeks before their due date. Babies that weight less than 3 ½ lbs when they are born often have problems with illnesses, inattention and overactivity. Later they may have poor motor coordination, language deficits, low intelligence test scores, difficulty learning in school and emotional or behavioral problems

Small for date infants are infants whose birth weight is below normal for length when they are born. They are born full-term or preterm but are especially underweight and tend to have more serious problems. Small for dates infants are more likely to die, catch infections or show evidence of brain damage. In middle childhood they may have lower intelligence scores, are less attentive and are socially immature. Infants born underweight is possibly due to the mother not getting proper nutrition during pregnancy, the placenta not functioning normally or the baby was born other complications.

The primary physical problem with infants that are born prematurely or underweight is that they have trouble breathing because their lungs are not underdeveloped. Another problem with premature babies is that their appearance and behavior can lead the parents to be less sensitive and responsive in caring for them. They are held less often, touched or talked to gently to than normal weight babies and babies born full-term.

Premature newborns need a lot of help in order to prevent later problems. The primary way to help them is to stimulate all of their senses. Methods for stimulating their senses include exposing them to the sound of their mother’s voice or heartbeat sound (muffled noise), pulling them close to the mother’s body to smell, allowing them to visually see things around them and creating skin-to-skin contact touching the infant. Simple ways to stimulate their senses include holding the infant close in the “kangaroo method”, touching baby while they are in the isolette or holding them skin-to-skin on the parent’s chest.

There is a lot more stress involved in bringing a premature baby home especially if they cannot breathe on their own and are still using an oxygen tank. Preparation and knowledge are the keys to be properly trained and keeping the stress levels low when bringing home a premature newborn.