When is a baby premature?
If your baby is born before 37 weeks of pregnancy, they are considered to be premature, or pre-term.
Bonding with your premature baby in hospital
If your baby is born prematurely, they’re likely to need the support of an incubator and will need to stay in hospital until they’re strong enough to go home. But even though you may not be able to cuddle them as you expected, they can recognise your smell and voice, so simply sitting next to them and talking can start to build strong bonds.
You might worry that your baby looks too fragile to touch, but gentle stroking or massage is a special and comforting way to pass on your love and reassurance.
Some mums and dads can find it very emotional visiting their premature baby. If you don’t feel up to it some days, take a little time to look after yourself so that you’re better prepared when you’re ready to go back in.
Expressing milk for your premature baby
If your baby is still in the baby unit you may be expressing breast milk to feed them. Many mums find that their milk supply goes through ups and downs. If yours needs a boost, try some of these tips:
- Soak in a relaxing bath.
- Cuddle or stroke your baby.
- When possible, express milk close to your baby.
- Massage your breasts and express by hand.
- Try a different style of pump.
Your premature baby’s development
It’s natural to feel a little concerned that the earlier a baby is born, the more likely they are to face challenges. But a premature baby does not necessarily face long term developmental problems . Remember, even full term babies meet their milestones at different times! So take heart. The most important thing is to encourage and celebrate every step of your baby’s development.
Will my next baby be premature too?
Many mums of premature babies worry that all their children will be born early but this isn’t necessarily the case. Around 9 in 10 women whose first baby was born pre-term will go on to have a normal, full term pregnancy the second time around.