Care of Premature Babies
Babies who are born preterm need the same care that other babies get and a little more. This includes:
Good pregnancy care:
All pregnant women should receive good care, including at least four antenatal visits with a health worker.
Mothers at risk of preterm birth (e.g. those who have had a preterm birth before) need to be aware that it may happen again, and plan accordingly.
Health workers caring for pregnant women need to assess their risk of delivering preterm and be able to recognize and manage conditions that can lead to preterm birth (e.g. pre-eclampsia, a condition in pregnancy that causes the mother to have high blood pressure).
Women in preterm labour should give birth at a health facility where they and their babies can get the care they need.
Women in preterm labour, before 34 weeks of pregnancy have been completed, should receive steroid injections to speed up the development of the baby’s lungs.
Essential newborn care:
All babies need to be protected from infections: everyone who touches the mother or the baby should have clean hands.
All babies need to be kept warm: right after birth, they should be dried thoroughly and placed on their mother’s abdomen. If they breathe normally, and after the umbilical cord has been clamped and cut, they should be put on their mother’s chest, with skin-to-skin contact, until after the first breastfeed. They should not be bathed right away.
Most babies will breathe normally after thorough drying. Those who do not start breathing on their own need help: ventilation with a bag and mask will usually put them back on track.
Breast is best: just like full-term babies, breast milk is the best nutrition for preterm babies. Babies should be breastfed as soon as possible after birth. Most premature babies who are unable to coordinate the suck and swallow reflex can be fed their mother’s expressed breast milk by cup, spoon or nasogastric tube.
What is Kangaroo Mother Care?
Kangaroo Mother Care is a technique by which the baby is held on an adult’s chest—usually the mother—with skin-to-skin contact, for extended periods of time. It is suitable for preterm and full-term babies weighing less than 2 kg who do not have other serious problems (breathing well, normal heart rate).
The baby is placed on his/her mother’s chest and stays there, day and night, held in place by a cloth that is wrapped and tied at the mother’s back.
Kangaroo Mother Care could save an estimated 450 000 preterm newborns a year.
Kangaroo Mother Care is an effective way to meet a premature baby’s needs for warmth, frequent breastfeeding , protection from infection , stimulation, safety and love. It has also been shown to improve bonding between mothers and babies.