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World Prematurity Day

November 27, 2023

World Prematurity Day - featured image

This day is celebrated every year to raise awareness about the challenges faced by preterm babies and their families. A premature baby has a huge impact (positive and less positive) on the whole family.

According to the World Health Organisation 15 million babies are born prematurely in the world each year. This is more than 1 in 10 babies.

Albert Einstein, who is considered the greatest physicist of all times, was born 2 months prematurely. He was once quoted as saying: “There are 2 ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as if everything is.”

A premature baby is any baby born before the gestational age (duration of pregnancy) of 38 weeks, irrespective of the weight.

WHEN A BABY GETS ADMITTED TO THE NICU:

The medical team will always try to keep you as parent informed of what management they propose for your baby and will seek your agreement (consent) for that. This includes procedures like oxygen supply, taking of blood specimens for tests, x-rays to be done and help with feeding. Occasionally, it is necessary to carry out emergency procedures and treatments before consent can be obtained. At all times, the consideration is what is best for your baby and you will always be informed as soon as your baby is more stable. Unfortunately, it is not always smooth sailing and while every small step forward gets celebrated, the obstacles get embraced together by all parties involved. Alongside the paediatrician and nursing staff, other healthcare personnel that might be involved in the baby’s care are physiotherapists, occupational therapists, speech therapists and dieticians.

WHAT YOU AS A PARENT CAN CONTRIBUTE:

Breastmilk is the best feeding option for a premature baby. Expressing can be done every 3 to 4 hours and the nursing staff will be able to assist the mother. Emotional support from the partner in this regard is vital. Kangaroo (mother) care = KMC can be done by both of the parents. This skin-to-skin care is really beneficial for the premature baby for reasons listed below.
Other visitors might be restricted in the NICU, as this poses a risk of infection to all of the premature babies. Infection prevention and control is very important.

The theme for this year’s World Prematurity Day is:

“Small actions, big impact: immediate skin-to-skin care for every baby everywhere”.

The focus is on getting neonatal units to encourage and enable parents to bond with their premature babies through touch, particularly skin-to-skin holding (kangaroo care).

Why skin-to-skin care is done:

  • Calms and relaxes both mother and baby.
  • Regulates the baby’s heartrate, breathing and temperature, helping him/her to better adapt to life outside the womb.
  • Stimulate an interest in feeding.
  • Enables colonisation of the baby’s skin with the mother’s friendly bacteria, thus providing protection against infection.
  • Stimulates the release of hormones to support breastfeeding and mothering.
  • Promotes bonding between the parents and baby.

The journey with a premature baby is challenging with hospitalisation often until the initial planned date of birth. Always remember that there are people you can ask for any support whatsoever.

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