The premature baby

A baby weighing much under 5 pounds will probably need to remain in hospital where an incubator and expert care are available.

It's hard to get over your anxiety

Most premature babies develop quite normally, allowing for their prematurity. Though they gain weight slowly at first, they usually gain and grow more rapidly for a while later to make up for this. Naturally, they cannot make up for their youngness. The baby who was born 2 months early and has become "1 year old" should be thought of as really a 10-month-old.

By the time a premature baby weighs 6 pounds, he needs no more coddling or worrying than any baby, but this is very hard for the parents to believe. In the beginning the doctor may have cautioned them against being too optimistic, and only gradually became more reassuring. The baby probably had to be in an incubator, watched constantly by nurses and doctors, and probably had to be fed by tube at first. The parents might not have been able to get near him most of that time, though most hospitals are now encouraging parents to touch and, where possible, hold and feed their premature babies from the very beginning.


Premature babies are often discharged from the hospital when they weigh about 4 pounds. You can find out how much and how often your baby is being fed from the hospital and go on from there. If the baby is bottle-fed, you can expect to be able to gradually increase the feeding size and the time between feedings when the baby seems ready, just as if he were full term.

The main thing to be on guard against in the beginning is attempting to get the baby to take more milk than he wants. This is a great temptation because he looks so slender. But resistance to disease has nothing to do with fatness. Your baby, like every other, has his individual pattern of grouth and an appetite to take care of it. If you push food beyond what he is eager for, you only take away his appetite ands low up his weight gaining.

Breast-feeding a premature baby

A mother who wants to breast-feed will have been regularly pumping her breasts and providing her milk for her baby during his hospital stay. As the baby becomes larger and stronger, the nurses can help the mother start breast-feeding, usually before the baby comes home. Getting the baby on breast-feeding is a gradual process.

No other precautions

He can have a tub bath as soon as he comes home (make sure you keep him warm). Once he is gaining weight well, he can go on outings like any normal newborn baby.

The parents certainly don't need to wear masks even when he first comes home. He has to get used to the ordinary family germs. He shouldn't be exposed to outsiders with colds or other infections any more than any baby or child should, but otherwise no special precautions are necessary or wise.

Immunizations are started at 2 months after birth, as they are in full-term infants. This is because, if anything, premature babies have fewer reactions to "shots", and they especially need protection from illnesses such as whooping caugh.

Text source: Dr. Spock's Baby and Child Care -Beanjamin Spock and Michael Rothenberg

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