Preterm labours happen at a rate from 5% to 18% across 184 countries in the world, according to the World Health Organization. Even though preterm birth is not uncommon, it still comes as a shock to most parents when it actually happens. You might have just come from the shock of your sudden contraction, and before you realize what’s happening, you’ve delivered your premature baby somehow. But what now? It’s okay to feel unprepared for what’s next to come, we will guide you through the steps to care for your premature baby.
We recommend reading Preterm Birth 101: Cause and Prevention if you haven’t already!
Health Concerns for Your Premature Baby
Babies normally need 39 to 40 weeks of pregnancy to properly mature and develop. Babies born before 37 full weeks can be under the risk of prematurity and suffer from the common complications listed below.
Keep in mind that level and symptoms of prematurity are different for each baby, and most babies do not experience all the health issues listed.
- Unstable body temperature: Premature babies may have lower than average body fat that keeps him/her warm and temperature stable.
- Impaired cognitive function: They may suffer from muscle dysfunction, behavioral or psychological disorder due to intraventricular hemorrhage (bleeding in the brain) or underdeveloped brain tissues.
Take Care of Yourself First
Having a premature birth can be hard for any mum and family. It’s normal to feel unprepared and frightened about what’s coming next. You may be experiencing a flush of emotions, joy, disappointment, fear, self-doubt, and sadness coming at you all at once. You may feel confident to face all the challenges one day, and feel totally defeated the next day. It is important to take care of your own emotional needs first before you stress out on more responsibilities of taking care of your baby.
Eat a healthy diet and keep a balanced lifestyle to minimize your stress. Always seek support from your partner, family and friends if you’re struggling to fight the unknowns and need a pat on the shoulder. Don’t focus on finding the cause of your preterm birth. If you are frustrated over questions and comments from people, let them know that preterm births are unpredictable and we can never know precisely what the causes are. Get plenty of rest and relax yourself fully.
How to Take Care of Your Premature Baby?
Premature babies will most likely spend their first couple of weeks in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) to receive special care for their conditions. You may feel powerless in a room full of medical equipment, all sorts of tubes, ventilators, and noises coming out from machines. But there are still many ways that you can help your baby, including:
- Ask about your baby’s condition: Understand your baby’s conditions and find out what you need to prepare for. Remember, the more you know, the better you can handle the situations.
- Prepare your milk supply: Even though your baby may still be relying on IV and may not be able to feed right away, you should still bump out your breastmilk 6-8 times a day to keep your milk supply coming. Your milk ducts can shrink and produce less milk if you don’t pump them out regularly.
- Connect with your baby: Bond with your baby through voice and skin touch when he/she’s ready.
You’ve just given birth to a beautiful child, be proud and stay strong. No one can ever blame you for what happened, so don’t agonise over guilt and self-blame. You’ve come so far already :)