Pregnancy is a time when several emotions run through a expectant mom’s mind- on one hand there is an excitement of seeing your baby and holding her/him in your arms but at the same time there is also this fear for the well being of the baby. What if my baby is born pre mature or with low birth weight? How will I care for her and ensure her special needs are taken care of?
A preemie or premature baby is one who is born before 37 weeks, the weight of such babies is usually low ( below 2.5 kgs at birth). Preemie babies have special needs when it comes to their nutrition and care. It is no doubt challenging for a new parent to care for a preemie but equipping oneself with the requisite knowledge helps.
When I was expecting, I often spoke to my friends who were moms to gain insights from them about their journey and challenges. One of my college friends had delivered a pre mature baby and while I was overwhelmed hearing about her struggles , it also helped prepare me with vital information when it comes to preemie care.
Although my daughter was born after 40 weeks, and my set of challenges as a new parent were different from those of a preemie, I found some common things. I also thought its worthwhile sharing about preemie care which I hope will benefit new parents.
- Breastfeeding is essential and its ideal to start it as soon as the baby is born. Colostrum a yellow colour liquid is the first form of liquid produced immediately following birth of a new born. Colustrum is rich in nutrients and contains antibodies which protects a new born from diseases.
Breastfeeding is highly recommended for the 6 months of a baby’s life. Research has found that DHA and Natural Vitamin E aid infant cognitive development. The combination of these 2 nutrients helps the brain cells produce more powerful connections. While it may difficult for a preemie to suckle directly, a new mom can express milk and feed it to the baby using a cup and spoon. Its important to express milk atleast 8-9 times in a day. Once the baby gets stronger, it can have breastmilk directly.
- Kangaroo care-Its a method that allows the caregiver to have skin to skin contact with the baby. It is highly recommended for preemies and babies with low birth weight. In this method, the baby is placed , skin to skin on an adult’s chest.It helps to stabilise the baby’s heart rate, improve sleeping pattern, helps in more successful breastfeeding. Its an efficient way to meet a preemie’s special requirements for warmth, frequent feeding, security and affection.
- Limit visitors- While everyone is excited so see a new baby, it can get quite overwhelming for the new one apart from the risk of catching an infection. Its best to restrict visitors by letting them know that it can be stressful for the baby. It could also be disturbing for the baby’s sleeping pattern.
- Nutrition needs- Is my baby too fragile, will he/she catch up with others and grow normally? These thoughts often haunt parents of preemies. Though they often face complications and develop slowly, the good news is they can catch up and have a normal development. Its important to focus on their special nutrition needs. Food that aids cognitive development and baby brain development is essential. As the baby grows older, breastmilk should be supplemented by other foods rich in Vitamin E and DHA. Leafy vegetables, nuts and fruits, seafood are rich in Vitamin E
- Don’t forget to care for yourself Mommy- As a new mum life changes big time. Erratic sleeping and feeding schedules can leave a new mom stressed. Every minute is spent looking after the baby. Its important a mom does not ignore her own good health. Eating meals on time and ensuring she is getting the right nutrition through her diet, covering up for lost sleep and trying to get some time at-least for herself helps. A new mum can take supplements like Simmom which takes care of the calcium, energy and protein needs and is enriched with Zinc, Iron and DHA which aids the growth of the babyAsk for help and support from your near and dear ones in caring for the baby.
I recently read about this amazing workshop by Laderal Medical in association with Abbot which aims to save lives of mothers and newborns in low resource countries. A training program designed by Laerdal consists of small baby care, exclusive breast feeding, manual expression of breast milk, nasogastric tube feeding, Kangaroo
Mother Care, Family centric care etc.This would be extremely beneficial in saving lives and caring for preemies. Don’t forget to give them a read and the wonderful work they are doing.