Premature babies arrive before they have fully developed in the womb. Certain factors such as early separation of the placenta from the womb, multiple pregnancies, diabetes, gestational diabetes, alcohol consumption, smoking, excessive stress during pregnancy, and a genetic abnormality of the baby can lead to the premature birth of the baby.
Did you know inadequate early postnatal nutrition tends to cause abnormal neurodevelopment? So, good nutrition and development can help the baby lead a healthy life. You will be shocked to know that lack of proper intake of nutrients can cause neuronal deficits and poor behavioural and cognitive health. Those babies who are premature are at risk of developing respiratory distress, acidosis, sepsis, etc. Moreover, they may need Total Parenteral Nutrition (TPN) where proteins, lipids, glucose, microelements, and vitamins are given via central lines.
Tips for the growth and development of a premature baby
Breast milk and breastfeeding
Breast milk is the most important nutrient for a preterm baby. The mothers should pump their breasts every few hours to ensure a good milk supply. If the mother is unable to give enough expressed breast milk (EBM), babies are advised to pasteurize donor breast milk, mostly collected from mothers of healthy babies. In the absence of a mother’s own milk (MOM), donor milk will lower the serious effects that rise from NEC (a severe form of gut infection) and enhance cognition, bone mineral content, and cardiovascular health. EBM and donor milk can be supplemented with breast milk fortifiers to help with those extra calories, protein, minerals, and vitamins.
Kangaroo mother’s care (KMC)
This is the need of the hour. Keeping a baby on the mother’s chest can help the baby in many ways. It is just like a kangaroo carrying her joey in her pouch. KMC helps in improving weight gain, reducing temperature fluctuations in the baby as well improving bonding between the mother and her baby.
Prevention of osteopenia of prematurity
Osteopenia can be termed as a metabolic bone disease of premature infants due to the lack of calcium, phosphorus, and vitamin D. It can be prevented with early supplementation of vitamin D and optimizing calcium and phosphorus.
Manage anaemia in preterm babies
You will be shocked to know that preterm babies are prone to anaemia. Iron supplementation is essential for keeping anaemia at bay. Zinc and vitamin supplementation Is also essential for preterm babies for their overall growth and development. Do not give any supplements to the baby without the doctor’s advice.
Experts can help parents support their premature baby’s healthy brain development
Your baby’s brain is built gradually. You will be surprised to know that it tends to start right from pregnancy, and goes on till the baby’s early adulthood. Moreover, it will also require a strong foundation.
The brain consists of many areas that help to control everything right from hearing and walking to problem-solving and how one feels. Each area is known to have millions of brain cells or neurons. These neurons communicate with each other via passing chemical messages over tiny spaces that are known as synapses. As the messages are repeated every time, more links are made, and “neural pathways” are formed, which can be termed brain wiring. The baby’s brain wiring is active, changing, and developing in response to what’s going on all around them. Hence, certain activities such as playing, being read to, learning, interacting, and being responded to by people help develop your baby’s brain.
Furthermore, loving, consistent, positive relationships help build healthy brains and protect your baby’s brain from getting stressed or anxious. Stress can be seen due to marital conflict, poverty, abuse, neglect, being exposed to violence, or having a parent with an untreated mental illness. This stress is dangerous for the baby’s developing brain. It can invite physical, learning, and emotional problems in childhood, and these problems can carry on right into adulthood.
Know about your baby’s brain requirements
You can follow these essential tips for the baby’s development:
- Babies need to live and play in a healthy environment with opportunities to learn and grow. They should know when they are tired, hungry, or stressed or that they want a cuddle or hug from you. Babies need their parents to respond to them in loving, gentle, and caring ways.
- Do simple and fun activities with the baby like talking, reading, and even singing. It will be good for the brain development of the baby. A lullaby played on a mobile phone or a video on television cannot replace this.
- Trying to make eye contact, smile, and have skin contact are all positive experiences.
- Give iron-rich foods to the baby.
- Pay attention to the baby when required. It will be important to notice when the baby is ill, hungry, upset, or just needs some comfort. This will help his/her brain to develop.
- Play with the little one! Doing so can help the babies to develop hearing, touch, taste, and smell.
- It is important for you to take your baby for regular health check-ups. Do not skip the baby’s vaccination, and take utmost care of the baby’s overall well-being.