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 "ages":
- 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 age.
- 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
During your 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 milestones, see:
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 the topic 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.