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Premature Infant - Topic Overview

What kind of treatments might a premature infant need? continued...

They are usually tube-fed or fed through a vein (intravenously), depending on their condition. Tube-feeding lasts until a baby is able to breathe, suck, and swallow and can take all feedings by breast or bottle.

Sick and very premature infants need special treatment, depending on what medical problems they have. Those who need help breathing are aided by an oxygen tube or a machine, called a ventilator, that moves air in and out of the lungs. Some babies need medicine. A few need surgery.

Breast milk gives your baby extra protection from infection. You can pump breast milk and bring it to the hospital for your baby.

NICU (say "NIK-yoo") nurses can teach you things you'll need to do at home to help your baby.

Does premature birth cause long-term problems?

Before the birth, it is hard to predict how healthy a premature baby will be. Most premature babies don't develop serious disabilities. But the earlier a baby is born, the higher the chances of problems. Work together with your doctor and other health providers to closely watch your baby's development and try to catch any problems early on.

  • Most premature babies who are born between 32 and 37 weeks do well after birth. If your baby does well after birth, his or her risk of disability is low.
  • Babies most likely to have long-term disability are those who are born before 26 weeks or who are very small, 2.2 lb (1000 g) or less. Long-term problems may include problems with thinking and learning or cerebral palsy.

What can you expect when you take your baby home?

When you're at home, don't be surprised if your baby sleeps for shorter periods of time than you expect. Premature babies are not often awake for more than brief periods. But they wake up more often than other babies. Because your baby is awake for only short periods, it may seem like a long time before he or she responds to you.

Premature babies get sick more easily than full-term infants. So it's important to keep your baby away from sick family members and friends. Make sure your baby gets regular checkups and shots to protect against serious illness. Be current on your immunizations and ask other people who will be near your baby to be immunized too.

Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) is more common among premature babies. So make sure your baby goes to sleep on his or her back. This lowers the chance of SIDS.

This information is produced and provided by the National Cancer Institute (NCI). The information in this topic may have changed since it was written. For the most current information, contact the National Cancer Institute via the Internet web site at http:// cancer .gov or call 1-800-4-CANCER.

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: January 14, 2014
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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