Premature Infant - Looking Ahead to the Childhood Years
Your infant's "age"
Age is both a measure of time
and a marker of development. Unlike with a full-term infant, a premature
infant's age and development can be defined in different ways. This can be
confusing. When following your premature infant's growth and
development, it can be helpful to know the difference between the following
- Gestational age is the
same as the length
of your pregnancy. If your baby was born at 32 weeks, that is his or her gestational age. This is sometimes called the baby's postconceptual age.
- Chronological age is measured from the day of birth. Your
child's birthdays are celebrations of his or her chronological
- Corrected age is your child's chronological age minus the amount of weeks or months he or she was
born early. For example, if your 1-year-old was born 3 months early, you can
expect him or her to look and act like a 9-month-old (corrected age). You may
find this figure to be most reassuring when following your child's growth and
development for the first 2 years after birth.
Your infant's development
child's first 2 years of life, he or she will appear to be developmentally
behind full-term children of the same age. But you can expect your infant and
young child to achieve the same sequence of developmental milestones as any
other child. For more information about infant and child developmental
Expect that your premature infant's "lag" in development will catch up at
about age 2. As your child grows into the preschool
years, a 2- to 4-month difference in age or development blends right in among a
group of preschoolers. For more information about preschoolers, see
Growth and Development, Ages 2 to 5 Years.
As your child begins formal schooling, be alert for signs of learning
problems. Learning, reading, and math disabilities due to prematurity may first
become apparent during the early school years.