Caring for a Premature Baby: Growth and Development

ER - Madison

18 min Average

Growth and Development

Will my baby have any long term health problems?

Try to discuss any concerns you may have with your doctor. Your doctor can tell you if there is reason to suspect that there is concern about your baby's health in the future.

Will my babies growth be affected by prematurity?

It is impossible to tell how your child will grow in the future. Your baby's doctor will be following your baby's height, weight, and head measurement at each visit. Most children who were born prematurely attain their "genetic potential" for growth; that is, their adult height and weight are similar to their brothers and sisters. However, some preemies continue to grow slowly and are small adults. Preemies whose chances are greatest for remaining small are:

  • those who were <2 1/2 pounds at birth
  • those who, at birth, were small for their number of weeks' of gestation
  • those who were very sick for a long period of time
  • those with consistently poor weight gain while in the nursery

Will my baby's development be appropriate?

Your baby's doctor will assess if your baby is developing appropriately. It is important that you follow the schedule for all follow up appointments. Some nurseries have developmental follow up clinics to assess development. Keep in mind that if your baby was born early that it is normal to see slower growth and development. Remember do not compare your 3-month old with your neighbor's 3-month old who was full-term at birth.

How to Help Preemies Develop Well

There are many things that you can do to help your baby progress in each of the five areas of development:

  • Learn to read your baby's behaviors - You will come to know when your baby is stressed and needs some rest time, and when he or she is relaxed, can be handled, and is ready to respond to you.
  • Learn how to interact with your baby - What are the things he or she likes, doesn't like; what are the best times during the day; how long at a time does he/she have the strength to respond to you?
  • Make the environment as comfortable for the baby as you can:
    • keep light and noise levels moderate.
    • keep the baby's position flexed.
    • allow undisturbed periods of sleep.
    • provide opportunities to interact when he/she is awake.
  • Accept that each baby is different and may be a challenge to understand, and that progress will take time.
  • Give yourself permission to feel disappointed, helpless, or incompetent when you can't figure out what the baby wants or needs; your baby may not know, either. Feel happy and proud when you can read your baby. The important thing is that you are trying to understand what your baby is telling you.
  • Trust your instincts - You have known you baby longer than anyone.