Prematurity: Where every ounce is worth its weight in gold

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), a premature baby is a baby born before 37 weeks completion of pregnancy. In the world, we have approximately 15 million babies who are born prematurely every year.

Based on the gestational age there are sub-categories of prematurity:

A late premature baby is one who is born between 34-36 weeks of pregnancy. Most of the times, these babies do not require any intensive care. But there are three other groups of premature babies who need a lot of special care.

  • Moderate premature babies (32 – 34 weeks)
  • Very premature babies (28 – 32 weeks)
  • Extremely premature babies (less than 28 weeks)

You may feel anxious for the first few days after your baby is born prematurely. But you don’t need to worry as your little one will be receiving specialized care and attention in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU).

Your little one will be monitored closely to make sure s/he is getting the right balance of fluids and nutrition in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). Weight gain is one of the most important factors that need to be ensured in your little one by addressing proper nourishment.

How much weight do premature babies gain?

A full-term baby weighs approximately 3 kgs and this weight gain is achieved due to a continuous supply of nutrients from the mother to her baby through the placenta in the womb.

In your premature baby, weight gain will be dependent on when your baby was born. The earlier your baby is born, the lesser your baby will weigh and also postnatal sickness will play a role. Premature babies usually start gaining weight after a few days of being born.

Does your baby require special care?

Yes, your baby may have special needs. Younger and smaller babies are frail and are cared for in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU).

Round-the-clock specialized care offered

Warmth and temperature regulation

Your baby will be placed in an incubator to maintain adequate temperature. As your baby grows you will be advised to provide Kangaroo Mother Care (KMC), with skin-to-skin contact to provide warmth and comfort to your baby.

Weight gain

In the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) your baby is weighed every day. It is normal for your baby to lose weight in the first few days, but most of it is due to loss of water from the body. If your baby is very sick, s/he may be given more calories in order to grow at the desired rate.

Nourishment of your baby

Breastfeeding is one of the most essential things that you need to do to promote healthy weight gain of your little one. Colostrum is the perfect first milk for your baby. It is the best way to build your premature baby’s strength and health. It can help your baby’s gut to grow and prevent infections.

Your premature baby is fed following a schedule and not on demand. You need to keep a track of when you are feeding your baby and try to feed him/her at regular intervals. This helps your baby get nutrients at the right time. Your paediatrician/neonatologist will help you better on how to feed your baby.

If your baby is not mature enough to take oral feeds s/he might be kept on intravenous feeds. Once your baby gains weight and is mature enough, intravenous feeds are reduced and your baby is allowed to breastfeed or fed with special paladai.

Special fortifiers/formulas can be advised by your paediatrician/neonatologist as they have added calcium and protein to meet the special growth needs of your little one.

Testing procedures

Your baby will be under continuous observation and undergo several tests like:

  • Oxygen levels
  • Electrolyte levels
  • Blood grouping
  • Tests for anaemia
  • Any infection

Developmental care

Developmental care has many benefits for your premature baby including better feeding, improved weight gain, fewer complications, and better parent-infant bonding. The process of developmental care creates an environment for your baby that minimizes the stress, includes comfortable lighting conditions and kangaroo mother care.

Will your baby grow normally?

Yes, the only reason your baby looks small is that s/he is born before 40 weeks of gestation. Your baby will grow normally if managed well from the first day.

Premature babies are more fragile and may need special care in a controlled environment. Adequate nutrition is needed to reach weight gain goals of your baby. Best practices to improve growth will be individualized as per the nutritional requirements of your baby and will also be modified continuously to achieve the target growth parameters.

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