Helping You and Your Family Understand About Premature Babies

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Everything you need to know about Premature Babies

Every baby is a unique individual with a distinct personality and a set of challenges that have to be overcome. When a baby is born prematurely, the challenges involved in caring for that child are significantly greater than would be the case if the baby had been born full term. But thanks to advances in medicine and the care and support of dedicated healthcare workers, premature babies are doing better today than they ever have in the past.

Everything you need to know about Premature Babies

This website is dedicated to everything you need to know about premature babies. Here you will find information about breastfeeding, finding nappies and clothing, what you can expect at different stages of growth and development, and more. Hopefully, you will discover a wealth of information and knowledge you can always refer to as the parent of a premature baby.

Please note that there is help and support available throughout the UK. Between the medical community and support groups, parents of premature babies can get all the help they so desperately need.

Introductory Premature Babies Statistics

As the parent of a premature baby, the most important thing for you to know from the start is that you are not alone. Some 60,000 babies are born prematurely in the UK every single year. These babies are every bit as precious to their parents as full-term babies, and they deserve every chance at a long, fulfilling, and productive life.

For purposes of definition, a baby is considered premature if born before 37 weeks. The fact that due dates are just estimates indicates that classifying a child as premature can become a little uncertain the closer you get to the 37-week mark. Nonetheless, pre-term birth is the leading cause of death among newborns and the second biggest cause of death in children under the age of five.

Science classifies premature birth under three categories:

  • Prior to 28 weeks – extremely premature
  • From 28 to 32 weeks – very premature
  • From 32 to 37 weeks – moderately premature.

Statistics suggest that 10% of all pregnancies end in a premature birth. Babies born earlier than 23 weeks have a very small survival rate for obvious reasons. At 23 weeks the survival rate is 15%; babies born at 24 weeks have a 55% survival rate while those born at 25 weeks or later survive 80% of the time.

The good news for parents in England is that the survival rate for premature babies increased from 53% in 2006 to 80% in 2011. But survival does not necessarily mean that parents can stop worrying. Children born at or before 27 weeks are more likely to experience some form of disability by the time they reach six years of age.

Both Parent and Advocate

Parents of premature babies certainly have a lot to deal with right from the start. And if parents are first-time parents, things can easily get overwhelming within the first few days of childbirth. Over time, though, parents do get into a routine as they learn how to care for their children properly. At some point, many parents also come to the realisation that they are more than just parents – they are also advocates for their babies.

Hospitals and their medical staff are very good at what they do in terms of caring for premature babies. But our healthcare system is overwhelmed. Doctors, nurses and specialists simply do not have the time or resources to dedicate to meeting each and every need of premature babies. Therefore, it's up to parents to take on the role of advocate to make sure their children get the care and support they require.

There are four critical aspects of advocacy the parents of premature babies learn over time:

  • Communication – Meeting the needs of a premature baby begins with communication. Parents need to routinely communicate with all caregivers and service providers to make sure the best interests of the child are always put first. Above all, parents must be firm in their advocacy, though kindness and patience are still required as well.
  • Persuasion – Caregivers and service providers do not necessarily have first-hand knowledge of what it is like to live with and care for a premature baby. Sometimes parents have to work extra hard to persuade those in decision-making positions to provide the kind of care or support a child needs.
  • Research – Advocates spend lots of time researching everything from medical complications to treatments to services premature babies are entitled to. The more parents research, the more they will know what to do as they journey along the road of parenting a premature baby.
  • Asking for Help – Lastly, advocating for your premature baby does not mean doing everything alone. A good advocate knows when to ask for help. And when help is offered, he or she also knows how to accept it with grace.

Interestingly enough, parents of premature babies often discover hidden abilities and talents they never knew they had. Some of them are born out of the need to provide care for the children while others have always been there, just needing an outlet. One way or another, parents of premature babies tend to find that caring for their children is a transformational experience that changes both them and their baby’s lives forever.

Practical Help from Family

By the time a surviving premature baby is ready to go home, the parents are already well-versed in the basics of day-to-day care. Still, they face a new challenge: upon leaving the hospital 100% of the child care is now in the hands of these parents. Where they had doctors and nurses to help them in the hospital, they are taking full responsibility for the child when they take him/her home. This is where the help and support of family members is critical.

In a practical sense, the best thing family members can do for parents of premature children is invest time in learning how to provide basic care. Parents can get so bogged down that they drive themselves to the point of exhaustion trying to do everything. Just being able to take a break and step away for one or two nights a week can be a godsend.

Of course, there are other practical aspects to deal with as well. Parents of premature children have to be concerned about things other parents take for granted. Even the following basics are simply more difficult when you are talking about a premature baby:

  • Feeding
  • Finding clothing
  • Administering medicines
  • Tracking development and growth
  • Making endless doctor visits
  • Getting much-needed rest.

Parents tend to have a much easier time with a premature baby when family members pitch in to help. Thankfully there are classes family members can take that will help them make a real contribution to both parents and their premature babies. When families come together for the benefit of the baby, great things can happen.

Being the parent of a premature baby is no easy task. But the time, effort, and love parents put into their children are all worth it. A baby is a precious gift. A precious gift and a new life just waiting to be nurtured along an incredible journey that we are also fortunate to experience.

Know That You Will Be Tired

We cannot stress enough the joy that comes with caring for a baby, regardless of whether that baby is born full term or premature. With that joy also comes the fatigue of being a new parent. We want you to know that being tired is a normal part of parenting. Being extremely tired comes with being the parent of a premature baby.

There are going to be nights when you wake up wondering if you are doing enough for your baby. There will be times you spend hours in front of the computer researching every last detail you can think of. There will be days when getting out of bed in the morning seems like a monumental task. But you will rise to the challenge because you love that child more than anyone else in the world.

Never be afraid to tell others around you that you are tired and you need some help. Taking some time away to recharge your batteries and refresh your soul and mind does not make you a bad parent. It does not mean you do not love your child. It means you are a person with your own limits.

Sometimes the best way you can help your baby is to take some time away and rest. Your baby needs your full attention, and that's not possible if you are too tired to do even the most basic things involved in caring for a child. When you feel like you're in need of rest, go rest.

Know That Your Efforts Matter

All the sleepless nights and tears cried as the parent of a premature baby will be more than offset by the joys of watching your child grow, learn, and develop. It's a lot like childbirth itself. Many women intellectually know that labour and delivery were difficult, but what they remember most is the moment they held their baby in their arms. When parents become grandparents, the things they remember about their children are those things that bring smiles to their faces and joy to their hearts.

Your efforts in caring for your baby do matter. You are caring for a precious life. You are caring for someone who will ultimately grow into that unique person he or she was intended to be. And everything you do for your baby will be an important part of helping that precious life become the person you will know down the road.

Also know that your efforts on behalf of your child may matter in someone else's life, too. What you learn could be useful to other parents who have premature babies. What you might be able to teach healthcare professionals could be used to help parents in future cases. Indeed, the potential is almost limitless.

Please be encouraged that you are special parent who has been given special responsibility to care for precious life. Everything you do on behalf of your child matters. And in the end, everything you do will be worth it all.

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