Neonatal: Caring for Premature Babies

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Premature baby after birth Credit: Chip Somodevilla, Getty Images


A normal pregnancy lasts for 40 weeks. If a baby is born three or more weeks early, she is considered premature. Babies born close to 37 weeks usually do not have many problems, but babies born between 32 and 37 weeks may need to stay in the hospital's Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) to receive help eating, breathing, staying warm, and continuing to develop before going home. Babies born before 32 weeks are the most likely to have serious problems and may have to stay in the NICU for an extended period of time.

Preterm babies must often be tube-fed or even fed intravenously (through a vein) because they cannot eat on their own. Others need ventilators to help them breathe. Premature babies also can have difficulties staying warm, so they are kept in heated beds called isolettes.

A neonatologist is a doctor who specializes caring for preterm babies. If the hospital you choose to deliver your baby at has a NICU on-site, you will be introduced to the staff neonatologist. If your baby needs to be moved to another hospital, you can ask your ob/gyn for a reference or you can find a doctor on the Revolution Health web site.

Check out ParentDish to learn about amazing premature babies and Pregnancy & Birth.

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Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.