Caring for a Premature Baby at Home

Caring for a Premature Baby

Having a baby is often a time for celebration and sleepless nights. But sometimes, the little one arrives much sooner than anticipated, bringing along worries about his or her wellbeing. While at the hospital, it’s easy to rely on medical providers to take care of their healthcare, while you and your family focus on providing love. But what happens when it’s time to take the baby home? What can you do to ensure that they receive the best possible care?

What is considered to be a premature baby?

Generally, a full-term pregnancy is one that lasts for a full 40 weeks. However, some babies overstay the womb for a few days, while others are ready to come out a bit earlier. Yet, there’s a third group – babies who aren’t ready to be born yet, but who do arrive prematurely. This occurs when they are born during the 37th week of gestation or earlier.

Health Risks of Premature Babies

Premature babies –– preemies –– have a higher risk of health complications. The earlier they are born, the higher the risk. This is because their tiny bodies or some of their organs may not be fully developed yet. This often includes their lungs, kidneys, and/or their immune system.

When a premature baby is firstborn, he or she is sent to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) for around-the-clock care from healthcare professionals. This is where your baby will be placed in an incubator or hooked up to any additional life-sustaining machines they may need – such as a ventilator, C-PAP machine, or a feeding tube. The equipment in the NICU sounds alarms periodically. While they sometimes indicate the baby needs care at that moment, it also often signifies that it’s time for a routine check-up.

When is the baby ready for discharge?

Most hospitals have a minimum weight requirement before discharging a premature baby to go home. Medical staff will also ensure that the baby can regulate his or her body temperature, as well as gain weight steadily.

How to Care For a Preemie

Caring for a premature baby at home can be nerve-wracking. Once your baby is ready to go home, the hospital will provide you with specific instructions for the care of your baby. Always pay close attention to them, since every patient’s situation is different. However, there are several common denominators.

Feeding

Preemies need to eat more often to obtain enough nutrients to catch up on their growth. This is important for both nourishment and hydration. They typically require feeding every one and a half to three hours. This can be done with either breast milk or formula, and your baby’s healthcare team will instruct you as to specific amount requirements during each feeding. If you’ll be feeding your baby formula, be aware that most popular brands have special versions designed for premature babies.

You’ll need to burp your baby regularly during feedings. This ensures that all air is out of their bellies, so that there’s more room for milk. Signs that your baby is not getting enough milk include crying without tears, sunken eyes, and fewer than 6 diaper changes in a 24 hour period.

If you see your baby sucking on his or her fist, offer them a feeding. However, do not force them to eat if they resist. Talk to your doctor about how to get them to eat more if feeding time is a problem.

Bathing

Before giving your preemie a bath, pay close attention to their belly button. If a portion of the umbilical cord is still attached, or if it’s bleeding, give your baby a sponge bath instead of placing him or her in a baby tub – getting the umbilical cord wet can delay healing.

Once your baby is ready to get a bath in a tub, gather everything you need before getting started – since once you start, it’ll be pretty much impossible to walk away from the baby. Things you need include washcloths, baby soap, baby shampoo, a towel, a clean diaper, a change of clothes, and a thermometer.

Fill the baby tub with lukewarm water. Take the baby’s temperature before placing him or her in the water by putting the thermometer in one of the baby’s armpits. If the temperature is between 97.5 and 99 degrees, go ahead and bathe your baby (if it’s a bit lower, your baby could get cold in the water).

Leave the hair washing for last, also to prevent your baby from getting cold. Do not use soap on the face and use a different washcloth for the rest of the body. Do pay special attention to the neck, as it’s common for it to have dried spit and milk.

Sleeping

Sleep time is perfect after a bath. When it’s time for your baby to go to sleep, you can do what’s commonly known as kangaroo care. This is skin-to-skin contact with either mom or dad. When your baby is only wearing a diaper, place him or her on your bare chest, and place a blanket over the baby’s back.

This type of care helps your baby regulate his or her body heat and breathing, as well as learn to recognize your scent, touch, and rhythm of your breathing.

Be aware that your preemie won’t sleep through the night. Use a soft or dimmed light and set a routine so that your baby will get used to a specific pattern. This may include rocking them to sleep, patting them on the back, or playing white noise in the background.

Instead of placing the baby in a crib, use a bassinet. The smaller space will feel cozier for your baby. When you are ready to put your baby in bed, place him or her on their back to avoid the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).

Some preemies experience sleep apnea. If this is the case with your baby, the doctor will provide you with monitoring equipment. Familiarize yourself with it and ask as many questions as necessary until you are fully informed on how to use it and what each sound means.

Contact Sonas for Home Health Care in Florida

It can be hard to balance your time between work, home, and caring for a premature baby. Homecare providers offer the support you or your loved one needs.

If you are considering pediatric home health care services in Florida, contact the caring staff at Sonas Home Health Care. Call today (888) 592-5855.

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