After spending so many days in the NICU, finally, it’s time for your precious little one to follow you home! But you may feel a little worried and anxious about caring for your preemie (preterm baby) at home, especially if they seem so weak and fragile compared to your normal conception of a healthy baby. So, what are the precautions you should take so your baby grows up happy, healthy, and safe from harm?
Premature birth occurs about 12.3% of the time for annual live births in Malaysia. Your little one is considered pre-term if the pregnancy lasted for less than 37 weeks. It generally happens if the mother has had a history of preterm births, is having multiple pregnancies (like twins and triplets), or has an existing medical condition. In 2015, the Malaysian National Neonatal Registry registered 24.5% of babies born premature (<32 weeks in the womb), with 27.3% of them weighing less than 1.5kg at birth.
Preemies generally account for nearly 80% of neonatal deaths and may face longer-term health complications later in life. However, if your doctor tells you it’s safe to go home with your baby, it means your preemie has made it through the toughest part and is now all ready to go home and be showered in all of your love and affection. You just need to be cautious about these 6 things:
1. They are a lot more susceptible to germs and infections
Preemies generally have a weaker immunity because their immune system has not had enough time to develop while in the womb. This means that they get sick more easily when exposed to germs and bacteria around them.
To reduce the chances of infection, make sure that your house is generally dust and germ-free, and try not to keep furry pets in the same house as your preemie is in. Avoid bringing your baby out in public (especially so in the middle of a pandemic!) and be extremely strict about other people entering your home and handling your baby, at least until your doctor says you can.
2. They tend to get tired a lot faster
It takes a lot of effort for your preemie to stay awake and nurse. So, if you find them falling asleep while breastfeeding, don’t feel too bad about waking them up and helping them get more comfortable. It’s common for them to feel tuckered out from the sheer task of sucking and swallowing. However, this also means that their feeding and sleep schedule will not be ‘regular’ for a while, as they don’t fall into a deep sleep as much, are usually more wakeful, and will need to feed more often.
3. They get cold easily
Another thing to be aware of is that your preemie doesn’t have the usual layer of fat under their skin, which means that they are very easily influenced by the temperature of their surroundings. Remember to keep your baby at a safe and comfortable temperature at all times. Swaddling and using layers of clothing helps. But, be careful of overheating, which may increase the chances of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome).
4. Make sure to keep your surroundings calm, quiet, and dim
Your preemie has gone through a lot of irritation and overstimulation during their time in the NICU, with constant UV lights and continuous loud noises disrupting their sleep. That’s one of the reasons why pre-term babies may get easily upset at the slightest noise.
Your baby may cry and get fussy at normal sounds and under normal lights. Just spend more time with them in a dim, quiet setting at home, and give your baby enough skin-on-skin contact to let them know they are safe with you. This contact will help to improve your bonding with your precious preemie too!
5. Don’t forget tummy time!
Preemies spend most of their time at the hospital lying flat on their backs during treatment, which can be detrimental to their physical development over time. As soon as they are able to, start introducing tummy time to their daily routine. Training them to lay on their bellies helps strengthen their muscles in the neck, abdomen, back, and shoulders. This is essential for learning how to crawl and enhancing their balance system, cognition, problem-solving skills, coordination, and speech. Besides, getting them to spend a few minutes each day on their tummy also helps prevent flat-head syndrome.
6. They have drier skin
Generally, preemies have slightly drier skin than normal, but it also depends on their skin condition and how prematurely born they were. That’s why doctors generally advise parents to just bathe pre-term babies with plain water instead of with soap, as it may irritate and dry out their skin even more. In fact, you don’t even need to give them a bath every single day. Using soaked cotton wool balls to clean their little nooks and crevices is more than enough in the beginning. Just remember to dry and dress them up properly in warm clothes as soon as possible to minimise the cold.
If you want your baby to feel more relaxed after a bath, give our TYT Baby Herbal Bath a try. It’s soft, gentle, and doesn’t dry out your preemie’s skin as traditional soaps might do. When used with TYT Herbal Medicated Oil, it’s also effective for releasing trapped wind and soothing your baby’s bloating problems.