Babies always bring joy to everyone around them at home. However, if your newborn is preterm, you are likely to stay at the hospital for longer because of the safety it offers. But, the ongoing pandemic is posing additional challenges with the fear of contracting the virus looming large. However, you do not need to worry if you are keen on taking the baby home and caring for it from the comfort of your house. But keep in mind that the doctors will only discharge a preterm infant if they are sure that they are healthy enough to leave.
Below, Dr Sreenath Manikanti, Senior Consultant Neonatologist at Fortis La Femme Hospital, Bangalore lists out the main requirements doctors check before discharging a preterm infant. Read on.
1) Can the baby maintain its temperature in an open crib without a radiant warmer or incubator?
2) Can the baby take feedings via breastfeeding or paladai without supplemental tube feeds?
3) Can the baby gain weight steadily?
Dr Manikanti says that “most of the premature babies usually meet these criteria within 3-5 weeks before their original due date.”
Taking care of the baby at home
The correct temperature
Make sure your baby is at a comfortable and safe temperature; this can be done by adding layers of clothing or removing them when necessary. “Try not to overload the bed with blankets as it can raise the temperature too high for the baby to handle. Buy a digital thermometer and maintain baby’s axillary temperature between 36.5-37.4 C ( 97.7-99.4 F). Ideal room temperature for sleep is 20-24 C,” suggests Dr Manikanti.
Help your baby sleep
You can help your baby sleep better by setting the right environment, like a cool temperature and dim lighting in a silent room. “Preterm babies also get hungry more often in the night than term babies because the smaller the baby, the more often they need to feed,” says the doctor.
Bathe your baby safely
Make sure that the water isn’t hot. Aim for bath water temperature of 100 F (38 C) and wash their hair with plain water only because it’s best for your baby’s skin in the first month. The doctor adds, “give sponge bathing until the baby reaches 2.5 kg in weight and make sure you don’t use any lotions or oils until your baby is at least a month old.”
Prevention of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome(SIDS)
“Never let your baby sleep on his stomach – this can cause breathing difficulties. It’s alright if the baby turns over by themselves as their brain is mature enough to alert them to breathing dangers,” says the doctor. He also adds that when the baby sleeps on their back, it increases access to fresh air and makes them less likely to get overheated, which happens to be a major cause for SIDS.
But, remember that sleeping on their side isn’t safe either – “Studies show that putting a baby down on his side rather than on his back doubles the SIDS risk,” says the doctor. Don’t add anything except a soft bedsheet and wait until your baby’s first birthday before adding any pillows, blankets, or stuffed toys as this can alter your baby’s breathing. “Try to avoid co-sleeping until he becomes a little older as there are too many risks while sleeping together,” says the doctor.
Breastfeed them as long as you can. Babies who are breastfed are more easily woken from sleep than formula-fed babies, which may be a reason babies who are breastfed are less likely to be affected by SIDS.
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines