Caring for your premature baby

Posted on March 6th, 2013

14% of all babies born in South Africa are born premature. We look at why some babies are born premature and what you need to know for when it’s time to take your preemie home.

Every year, an estimated 15 million babies are born preterm (before 37 weeks gestation). According to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), 22% of all low-birth-weight babies (weighing 1 500 – 2 500g) in developing countries are born in Africa.
According to the website www.littlesteps.co.za, 14% of all babies born in South Africa are born premature. This percentage can increase to as much as 25% in the public sector.

Causes of premature birth

  • Multiple pregnancy
  • Pre-eclampsia
  • HELLP syndrome (a life-threatening complication considered to be a variant of pre-eclampsia)
  • Premature rupture of membranes
  • Bleeding of the placenta such as in cases of placenta praevia
  • Placenta abruption
  • Injury to the abdomen
  • Foetal abnormalities
  • Pregnancy induced hypertension (high blood pressure)

From what age can a premature baby survive?
Most doctors define the age of viability for a premature baby at about 24 weeks gestation. A baby of this age may survive, but will require a lot of mechanical ventilation and other invasive treatments, not to mention a lengthy stay in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). Babies born slightly earlier may have a chance at survival if cared for by very experienced doctors in a state-of-the-art, specially equipped facility.
The survival rate for premature babies born at different stages are as follows:
23 weeks – 17%
24 weeks – 39%
25 weeks – 50%
26 weeks – 80%
27 weeks – 90%
28 to 31 weeks – 90 to 95%
32 to 33 weeks – 95%
34+ weeks – almost as likely as a full-term baby

Your baby’s stay in the NICU
If there aren’t any major complications, your premature baby may be released from hospital a few weeks prior to the actual due date. Before the doctor will discharge your baby, he will make sure that she can breathe comfortably without respiratory support, ensure that there are no neurological cardiac or eye complications, and that she can feed on her own (premature babies are generally tube-fed in hospital).

Taking your preemie home

  • For nappies, bottles, clothes, and handy info and articles regarding preemies, go to www.littlesteps.co.za.
  • Ask the nurses at the hospital where you can find preemie products in your area, or get in touch with other moms who had preemies on social networks such as Twitter and Facebook.
  • Remember to ask your doctor when your little one’s first check-up should be scheduled for before you leave the hospital.
  • If you have questions about anything from bathing and breastfeeding to burping your baby, ask the NICU nurses, your lactation consultant and your doctor.
  • Remember to install a child safety seat in your car before taking your baby home.
  • Don’t overdress your baby – if it’s warm, a nappy and T-shirt are fine, together with a blanket to wrap her in when you leave the hospital.
  • Young babies typically cry for one to five hours in 24 hours and can’t always be calmed, so don’t fret about these crying spells; they’ll subside after a few weeks.
  • If you’re concerned about your baby’s health, feel free to call your doctor.

Pampers launches Size 0 nappy
We love the new Size 0 nappies, especially for premature babies, in the Pampers Premium Care Range! The Size 0 nappy has a wetness indicator that will show you when baby needs a nappy change so you don’t have to disturb your little one to check her nappy all the time!
Premature babies aren’t able to regulate their own temperatures yet, making it difficult for them to keep warm if they have a wet nappy. Hence, it’s crucial to change your baby’s nappy as soon as it’s wet or soiled, as a damp nappy quickly cools a small and vulnerable baby.

The Pampers® Premium Care product range can be found on-shelf in leading supermarkets and pharmacies nationwide. Go to www.pampers.co.za for more info.

Living And Loving Staff

About Living And Loving Staff

Our experienced editors work with trained journalists and qualified experts to compile accurate, insightful and helpful information about pregnancy, birth, early childhood development and parenting. Our content is reviewed regularly by our panel of advisors, which include medical doctors and healthcare professionals. Meet the Living & Loving Team and our Online Experts.