A normal pregnancy usually lasts for 40 weeks, so a premature birth occurs before 37 weeks of pregnancy. A premature birth means that your baby hasn't had the usual amount of time to develop in the womb before needing to adapt to life outside the womb.
The earlier in pregnancy a baby is born, the more likely he/she is to have health problems. They also may have long-term health problems that can affect their whole lives.
Premature babies may have more health problems and may need to stay in the hospital longer than babies born later. Usually a preterm baby is not discharged until they are able to keep warm on their own, breastfeed or bottlefeed, weigh about 2 kg, gain weight steadily and breath on their own.
If you have twins or more, they may not be ready to go home at the same time. Your baby may need special equipment, treatment or medicine after he/ she leaves the hospital.
According to BabyCentre, if your baby has just left hospital, you'll need to gradually reduce the temperature of the room. Over the first week or so, bring it down to between 18-21 degrees Celsius.
Premature babies are vulnerable to infections, to reduce the risk:
- Keep your baby well away from people with colds or infections.
- Wash your hands regularly to stop infection from spreading. Ask visiting family and friends who are likely to touch your baby to do the same.
- Clean toys and surfaces often.
Having the usual course of newborn vaccinations also helps to protect your baby against serious illnesses. It's important to take your baby to your doctor's office soon after the baby leaves the hospital. Your doctor will check your baby's weight gain and find out how your baby is doing at home.
Talk with your doctor about feeding your baby. Breast milk is the best baby food. According to Family Doctor, all babies, including premature babies, should be put to bed on their backs, not on their stomachs. Use a firm mattress and no pillow.
Taking a premature baby home is probably filled with a lot of mixed emotions. Be reassured that if your baby wasn’t ready to go home he/she would not have been discharged.
Before leaving the hospital with a premature baby make sure you ask questions from your doctors concerning the things to monitor in your baby’s growth and development.