Premature babies are usually born more than 5 to 8 weeks early (after less than 32 weeks of pregnancy). Premature babies may need to be cared for in the hospital until close to their due dates.
The cause of premature birth is often not known. Sometimes a baby may need to be delivered early due to health problem for the mother or baby. It is common for twins or other multiple births to be born early.
Because your baby is so small and premature, your baby will be cared for in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) for a few days or several weeks. Many specialists will help care for your baby during her stay in the NICU.
Visit your baby as much as you can. Your presence helps the baby grow and get strong. Sometimes the baby is so sick at first that you may not be able to hold him until he is better. You can still hold the baby’s hand, touch, and talk to him. The older and more mature your baby is, the more you will be able to handle and care for him.
In the special care nursery, your baby will be in a special bed that keeps the baby warm by heating the air. All babies are attached to a heart and breathing monitor while they are in the NICU. These monitors sound an alarm if there is a big change in the baby's heart or breathing rate.
There are many problems that a preterm baby faces during the first weeks. Most problems of prematurity improve as the baby grows.
If you need to have special equipment at home, the hospital will help you arrange for it. They will teach you everything you need to know about caring for your baby at home. Once home, your baby will need more frequent feedings.
Most very premature babies grow up to be normal, healthy children. However, low-birth-weight babies are at greater risk for developmental problems than babies that are not premature. Premature babies also may need special medical care during their first year of life.
Try not to be overprotective. You will see your baby quickly grow and get healthy and strong.