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Understanding Premature Baby Development: Long-Term Care

Understanding Premature Baby Development: Long-Term Care

If you had your baby delivered earlier than expected, for more than three weeks before the due date, then your child is already considered a “preemie.” Premature baby development takes a little longer and slower as compared to babies born at full term.

Understanding Premature Baby Development

Though most babies born prematurely go on to lead healthy lives, they are still at risk of having complications and other health problems. In fact, there is a greater risk of complications for those babies who are born very early.

Premature infants are often categorized depending on how early they are born:

  • Late preterm babies are those born at 34-36 weeks of a mother’s pregnancy.
  • Moderately preterm babies are those born between 32 and 34 weeks of a mother’s pregnancy.
  • Very preterm babies are those born at less than 32 weeks of gestation.
  • Extremely preterm babies are those born at or before 25 weeks of gestation.

The most common preterm births lie in the late preterm category.

How Do Premature Babies Look Like?

Premature babies are relatively smaller in size often with a disproportionate head. Because of their small frames, their heads tend to look bigger.

Other noticeable features you may observe about them are as follows:

  • Their skin may appear either shiny and translucent or flaky and dry depending on the situation.
  • They may not have any fat stores under their skin to help them keep warm.
  • Most of them have shut eyelids that would take a little while to open and respond to different sightings.
  • They are more sharp-looking with fewer round features, unlike the usual full-term babies.
  • Lanugo (soft and fine hair) may cover most parts of the body.
  • They may become stiff, or sometimes they tend to switch, due to their inability to regulate body temperature.
  • They may have a hard time breathing.
  • At birth, they lack their sucking and swallowing reflexes, which eventually leads to feeding difficulties.

Not all premature babies look the same, but they share a few of these features because of this so-called premature baby development.

How Do Premature Babies Act

Oftentimes, your premature baby will tend to cry softly because of its difficulty in breathing. The baby’s respiratory system is still immature or underdeveloped, which is why it is natural for them to cry out in pain.

Doctors will closely observe both your baby’s breathing rate and heart rate through special equipment called a cardio-respirator monitor.

There are also some cases wherein premature babies the breathing problems progress over time that they may need extra help in breathing. Doctors may opt to provide extra oxygen or a ventilator depending on what the child needs. Another technique that could temporarily support the breathing is called the continued positive airway pressure (CPAP).

If you gave birth to a premature baby, he/she may need extra assistance from doctors and nurses. This will most likely end up in a longer stay in the hospital. Some babies may also need to be admitted to the special care of the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) so that the team can monitor them closely and provide them the extra care and management they need.

Premature Baby Development: Tracking your Baby’s Overall Health

Premature birth can cause long-term intellectual and developmental impairments. These are issues with how the brain functions that kids end up experiencing difficulties or delays in one or more of the following aspects:

  • Physical development
  • Language and communication development
  • Sensory development (hearing, vision, and sensory awareness)
  • Social and emotional development
  • Impaired learning
  • Managing and taking care of oneself
  • Other behavioral and psychological problems

In the long run, premature infants may also have other long-term complications such as but not limited to the following:

  • Cerebral palsy
  • Impaired learning
  • Vision problems (retinopathy of prematurity)
  • Hearing problems
  • Dental problems
  • Chronic health issues
  • Mental health conditions

Key Takeaways

There are several things you have to take into consideration to understand premature baby development.

Taking care of your preemie entails having regular visits to the doctor for check-ups, vaccination schedules, and even some rounds of eye and hearing exams. The doctor will assess your baby’s growth and development over time to ensure they are healthy just like other regular infants.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

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Written by Fiel Tugade Updated 2 weeks ago
Fact Checked by Bianchi Mendoza, R.N.