Taking care of premature and low birth weight babies at home

When a baby is born before it completes 37 weeks of gestation (pregnancy), it is called a preterm baby or a premature baby. Most of the preterm babies are of a low birth weight that they need to be placed in an incubator (or a ventilator if born too early) and nourished till it’s capable of surviving outside.

preterm babies

Sometimes even if the babies are born after the delivery date, they may be of low birth weight (like in twins, multiple births, etc.).

Till the babies are in the hospital, they’d be taken care of by the medical team. But do you have any idea about how to continue the care at home?

Well, this article will give you an idea about that.

Exclusive breastfeeding

breastfeeding

Breastfeed your baby every 2 hours. If the baby is sleeping, wait for half an hour more. Newborn babies wake up and cry for feeds once the previous feed had digested. If not, wake up the baby and feed him/her. You can scratch the baby’s sole or tap his/her heel to wake him/her up.

Do not miss to feed the thick creamy and yellowish colostrum (it’s the first milk secreted and is loaded with antibodies, antioxidants and other nutrients necessary for the baby’s survival). Most probably you would feed this to the baby in the hospital itself if he/she was taken care of in the incubator.

Do not worry if you don’t secrete enough milk to feed the baby till he/she is full. Breastfeed as much as you can and then go for the formula milk. Dexolac, lactogen, Nan, Nan pro are some of the formula feeds (you better check with your pediatrician).

Consuming food that is rich in proteins, fats and carbohydrates can help in increasing your milk secretion (not the junk food, mind it). You can also ask your gynecologist for non-hormonal medications to increase the milk secretion.

Even if your breast milk is low, feed the baby what you have got and only then go for the formula.

You can express and store your milk if you are a working mother. Read my article on how to express, store and reuse breast milk

Kangaroo mother care

kangaroo mother care

Every time after feeding the baby, burp him/her and place him/her in the place between your breasts (facing sideways) and gently pat the baby on the back. The baby can listen to your heartbeat in this position. The warmth of your body and the rhythm of your heartbeat (and the rhythm of your patting) would make them feel that he/she is still inside the womb. This feel helps the baby to gain weight.

It’s called kangaroo mother care because you would be keeping the baby close to your body (inside your dress) just like the way a kangaroo keeps its baby inside its pouch. Fathers can also give ‘kangaroo mother care’ to the babies. 

Provide a womb-like feel

When you are not holding the baby or when the newborn is sleeping, you can place him/her in a womb-like environment.

That is; place the baby in a baby sleeping bag and zip it (do not cover the newborn’s face, just cover till the shoulders). If you don’t have a baby sleeping bag, you can place pillows around the baby (close to the body to give a touching feel).

skin touch

From my experience, I would say that the closer you keep the baby to your body, the more and rapid will be the weight gain. The first psychological stage in a human being’s life is Trust Vs Mistrust. All the other stages would be established the right way only if this stage gets right.

When the mother/caretaker attends to the newborn’s needs ( feeding, holding the baby close to her chest, swaying and comforting him/her when the baby is crying, etc.), the neonate ( newborn baby) gets a feeling of safety and security which would establish a strong trust in the caretaker. This in turn would help in the rapid weight gain of the baby.

So keep your baby near to you and hug him/her whenever you can rather than placing the baby in a cradle. It helps always. If you’re scared that you would suffocate the baby while sleeping, you can put him/her in the crib once he/she is asleep or when you start feeling sleepy.

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