Care of a pre-term baby at home

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When your pre-term baby is ready to come home, as parents you might have mixed emotions. There will of course be the joy of finally taking the baby home (after the harrowing hospital stay). But there will also be apprehension and anxiety since your pre-term baby will need a lot more care than other babies.

Keep in mind that as you spend more time with your baby, you will understand her needs better and your relationship will grow stronger. Your team of doctors will brief you regarding the extra care and attention your baby will need at home before you leave the hospital. So let us understand what you need to focus on:

  • Temperature regulation – Unlike full term babies, pre-term babies are unable to efficiently control their body temperature. This puts them at the risk of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome). So keep the room temperature between 20°C to 25°C. This ensures that your little one neither gets too cold nor is overheated.
  • Kangaroo mother care – Like the way you did it in the hospital, it is advisable to continue Kangaroo mother care (which gives skin to skin contact) at home too. This enhances her neuro developmental growth.
  • Feeding – Breastfeeding would be the best. However, if that is not possible due to any reason, then using expressed breast milk is highly recommended.
  • Hygiene – Preventing infections is of utmost importance. Therefore minimum handling of the baby, that too by a select few, is a must. You also need to ensure that those handling the baby follow proper hand washing hygiene, wear clean clothes and use a face mask if possible.
  • Limit the number of visitors – While everyone will want to meet your little one, it is best to avoid people just wanting to pay a social visit for some time as they can be carriers of infection.
  • Sleeping – Your baby must always sleep on her back on a firm surface and her face should not be covered. She can sleep with you on the same bed, but at a slight distance, so that you don’t accidentally roll over her.
  • Bathing – You can begin bathing her once her body temperature and health parameters are stable. Vigorous massaging must be avoided.

The journey of a premature baby is a roller coaster ride; more so for the parents. But do not worry. Follow all the necessary recommendations and have regular follow ups with the doctors. Very soon, your baby too will be on the path of healthy growth and development.

By

Dr. Preeti Gangan

MBBS, DCH, IBCLC

Paediatrician and Lactation Consultant

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