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9 tips to take care of your preterm baby at home

Many new parents have doubts regarding how to take care of a premature baby at home after they get discharged from the hospital. Here are some tips to make the ‘hospital-to-home’ transition smoother for your tiny one.
mother kissing her newborn baby
You have to be extra careful when caring for preterm babies at home. Image courtesy: Adobe Stock
Paediatrician
Published: 27 May 2024, 14:45 pm IST
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Preterm or premature babies are babies who are born before the completion of 37 weeks of pregnancy. Most preterm babies born before 35 weeks require medical supervision and are shifted to the NICU (neonatal intensive care unit) for weeks or months depending on the birth weight and health of the baby. They need tender love and care to ensure healthy growth and development. The NICU period can be overwhelming for the parents, but it is the best time to start participating in your baby’s daily caregiving activities. With the guidance of the medical team, parents should be accustomed to feeding, holding, soothing, changing, and understanding cues of their baby. Once the baby gets discharged, consider these tips to take care of the premature baby at home.

How to take care of a preterm baby at home?

Here are some tips that help you take care of your newborn effectively:

1. Feed them properly

Premature babies often have difficulty in feeding due to their underdeveloped suck-swallow-breathing coordination. They also might not be able to express when they are hungry, be it in the form of crying or any other action due to delayed development, hence the parents need to keep a check on the baby and feed them on time. Feed your baby every 2 or 3 hours as advised by your doctor. Good activity, regular urine, and weight gain are signs of adequate feeding.

Also Read: What is the ideal nutrition for a very low birth weight baby?

A woman breastfeeding her new born baby
You have to be careful while feeding preterm babies. Image courtesy: Freepik

2. Regulate their temperature regularly

Parents are advised to keep skin-to-skin contact with the baby to regulate their body temperature. This skin-to-skin contact method is also known as kangaroo care. Kangaroo care is a special method of holding the baby close to your chest to give them the adequate warmth their body needs. It is also important to ensure the baby is kept at a warm and cozy temperature with appropriate clothing as premature babies find it hard to keep up with the room temperature.

3. Maintain proper hygiene

Preterm babies have weak immunity making them more prone to infections and sickness. Hence, follow proper hygiene throughout the house and also while handling the baby. For the first few months, sanitize your hands regularly before touching or carrying the baby, after changing his or her diapers.

Also Read: A premature baby needs extra care. Here’s what you can do

4. Avoid visitors

Parents should limit the baby’s exposure to the outside world for a few months as they are more sensitive to pollution and noise and can catch infections. Restrict the number of visitors to your house, especially school-age children and anyone who has a respiratory tract infection.

5. No smoking

If you have a premature baby at home, then do not allow anyone to smoke as it may damage the developing lungs of the baby

4. Follow some safe practices

Certain regular practices must be followed to ensure comfortable breathing and avoid emergencies at home. Always make the baby sleep in the supine position (sleeping on the back). They should not be put on tummy time until many weeks after birth. Place the baby on a firm, flat mattress, avoid pillows or soft toys on or near the baby’s bed.

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5. Bathing essentials

Preterm babies are delicate and have sensitive skin, it is essential to handle their skin gently with care. Do not use any chemical-based products on the baby’s skin as they could have adverse effects. Always use warm water instead of hot water on baby’s skin for bathing and avoid fancy baby products in baby’s bath routine. Keep bath time short to avoid overexposure to water and keep the baby warm by wrapping them in a soft towel immediately after the bath.

6. Take extra care of their skin

Apply coconut oil or any chemical-free moisturiser regularly. Gentle oil massage is good for the baby, but avoid vigorous massage and tight swaddling. Also, do not use talcum powder or scented creams.

Also Read: From diaper rash to summer skin woes, follow these tips for baby skincare

Applying moisturiser to baby skin
Moisturising your newborn baby’s skin is essential. Image courtesy; Adobe Stock

7. Notice the warning signs

Observe the baby for any signs such as lethargy, poor feeding, fever, loose stools, recurrent vomiting, reduced urination, or unusual skin rash. In case of doubt, contact your healthcare provider immediately.

8. Follow-up plan

Visit your pediatrician regularly as per schedule and do not miss any important tests like retina check, hearing test, and neurodevelopmental assessment. Avoid skipping vaccinations as they boost your baby’s immunity against common infections.

With these tips in mind, you will be able to take care of your premature baby at home without worrying too much.

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About the Author

Dr Anish Pillai is the lead consultant of Neonatology and Paediatrics at Motherhood Hospitals in Mumbai. He has completed his medical training at premier institutes in Mumbai, Kerala, and Vancouver. With the dual qualification of a Doctorate in Neonatology (DrNB, India) and a 3-year University Fellowship in Neonatal-Perinatal Medicine from Canada, Dr Pillai is an elite, sought-after neonatologist in the country. His areas of expertise include the management of extremely premature infants, babies needing ventilator support, postnatal growth restriction, and neurodevelopmental follow-up. ...Read More

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