5 Important Points to Guide Parents on The Care of Premature Babies

Preterm babies need special care when parents take them home from the hospital as there are special requirements for feeding and growth, and adverse health outcomes may possibly occur. Join us in celebrating this year's World Prematurity Day with these important points to guide parents on the care of premature babies.

Breastfeeding

Breastmilk is always the best source of nutrition for preterm babies as it not only provides all the energy and nutrients that the baby's needs, but also contains antibodies that help protect against many common childhood illnesses [1]. Hence, breastfeeding should always be encouraged to ensure the child health and survival. Mothers may experience discouragement and fatigue, but healthcare professionals should encourage continuing breastfeeding and provide gentle assurance to the mother that breastfeeding is the key to help their baby grow and thrive [2].

Kangaroo Mother Care – Enabling skin to skin contact

Kangaroo mother care is a method of care of preterm infants which involves infants being carried with skin-to-skin contact by their parent, usually the mother [3]. This skin-to-skin method has been shown to reduce mortality, severe illness, infection, and the length of hospital stay and may contribute to improved neurodevelopmental outcome [4].

Maintaining thermoregulation

Since hypothermia is associated with a greater risk of morbidity and mortality among preterm babies, regulation of body temperature is a basic aspect of newborn care [5]. Healthcare professionals should give parents instructions on maintaining the adequate room temperature and immediately drying the baby after bath. Guide parents for appropriately clothing instead of over clothed them as this may lead to hyperthermia on the other hand [6].

Safer sleep advice for premature babies

Infants need to sleep in order to enable the growth of five sense and neural systems as well as the structural development of hippocampus, pons, brainstem and midbrain [7]. Giving instructions on setting up the right environment, protecting them from noise and bright light would be helpful for the parents. Remind the parents to place the baby to sleep on its back and keep all soft bedding out of its reach, which may reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) and other sleep-related infant death [8].

Immunization

Early active immunity is particularly important for preterm infants because they are among the most vulnerable populations to pediatric infectious diseases [9]. Research has shown that despite their immunological immaturity, preterm babies generally respond well to vaccines [10]. Therefore, stressing the importance of immunization is necessary as getting vaccinated can lower the child’s risk of vaccine-preventable diseases due to prematurity [9,10]. For physicians, consider the child’s birth weight, the precise gestational age and the presence of any chronic medical condition(s) before giving vaccines [11].

REFERNCES

1. Boquien C. Y. (2018). Human Milk: An Ideal Food for Nutrition of Preterm Newborn. Frontiers in pediatrics, 6, 295. https://doi.org/10.3389/fped.2018.00295  
2. World Health Organization. Breastfeeding https://www.who.int/health-topics/breastfeeding access date:10/10/2022
3. World Health Organization.  Kangaroo mother care: a practical guide. https://www.who.int/publications/i/item/9241590351  
4. Jefferies, A. L., & Canadian Paediatric Society, Fetus and Newborn Committee (2012). Kangaroo care for the preterm infant and family. Paediatrics & child health, 17(3), 141–146.  https://doi.org/10.1093/pch/17.3.141  
5. Demtse, A. G., Pfister, R. E., Nigussie, A. K., McClure, E. M., Ferede, Y. G., Tazu Bonger, Z., Mekasha, A., Demisse, A. G., Gidi, N. W., Metaferia, G., Worku, B., Goldenberg, R. L., & Muhe, L. M. (2020). Hypothermia in Preterm Newborns: Impact on Survival. Global pediatric health, 7, 2333794X20957655. https://doi.org/10.1177/2333794X20957655
6. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Parents and Caregivers. https://www.cdc.gov/sids/Parents-Caregivers.htm  
7. Graven S. (2006). Sleep and brain development. Clinics in perinatology, 33(3), 693–vii. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.clp.2006.06.009  
8. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Parents and Caregivers. https://www.cdc.gov/sids/Parents-Caregivers.htm  
9. Gagneur, A., Pinquier, D., & Quach, C. (2015). Immunization of preterm infants. Human vaccines & immunotherapeutics, 11(11), 2556–2563. https://doi.org/10.1080/21645515.2015.1074358.
10. D'Angio C. T. (2007). Active immunization of premature and low birth-weight infants: a review of immunogenicity, efficacy, and tolerability. Paediatric drugs, 9(1), 17–32. https://doi.org/10.2165/00148581-200709010-00003
11. Australian Government. Department of Health and Aged Care. Vaccination for preterm infants. https://immunisationhandbook.health.gov.au/contents/vaccination-for-spe… access date: 10/10/2022