Understanding your preemie's special needs

By Laura Sussely-Pope

Preemies special needsDid your little one make an early arrival? If so, you're likely trying to decipher a scary and unfamiliar world. The day comes when they say that your baby's ready to go home. What can you do to get ready?

We plan our own families, get pregnant and prepare to bring home the baby.

Most parents worry about matching the bedding with the wallpaper and having enough clothes in the drawers as they get ready for a newborn.

When your baby decides to be born early, it's a whole different story.

You may wonder about moving your baby from a specialized, hygienic setting with highly trained professionals. Is your home setting and your care giving practices up to the challenge of bringing home your preemie?

Preemie-proofing your home

Most of the time preemies come home around the time they were due. While your baby may have reached the age of a full term baby, special equipment oxygen or apnea monitors might be needed to keep their body functioning safely.

One thing you can be certain of -- your preemie is full of surprises. Here's how you can be prepared and deal with the special needs.

Before baby comes home

✓ Have a car seat appropriate for preemies
✓ If you'll need special skills such as learning to use medical equipment, welcome the opportunity to spend time in the nursery learning and practicing before you solo at home
✓ Learn CPR so that if equipment your baby depends on doesn't work properly, you can support your baby until help arrives
✓ Talk with your pharmacist about any special medication your baby needs

Basic do's and don'ts at home

Out and about:

Do take your baby outside, but don't expose to a draft or direct sunlight for long periods of time. When the sun's shining, protect your baby with a wide-brimmed hat or a parasol.

✓ Avoid crowded indoor places like shopping malls, churches and theaters, where there's a higher risk of catching an infection.
✓ Remind friends and relatives who want to meet your precious bundle that your baby is susceptible to contagious illness. Ask them to keep small kids at a distance and to not visit if they have a cold, the flu or other sickness.
✓ Know your baby's cues. Your baby may go through periods of not wanting to be touch, held, talked to or sung to. Signs like an arched back, getting fussy or avoiding eye contact can signal the need to take a break. Steady breathing and heart rate, keeping eye contact and stable skin color indicate your baby is ready for more interaction.
✓ Be careful about hand washing but don't let it become an obsession. You should wash up after blowing your nose, changing diapers or handling raw food. Siblings should wash hands when they come home from sports, school or play dates.
✓ Make your home a no-smoking household for your baby's sake. Preemies shouldn't be exposed to smoke, aerosol sprays or paint fumes.
✓ Follow the usual tips and precautions for cleaning and storing pacifiers, breast pump equipment, bottles and nipples.

Your loving presence is the main thing your baby needs right now. Enjoy this special time with your baby to bond with skin-to-skin contact as often as possible. Catch up for all the times he was hooked to wire and tubes or just too immature for you to hold and snuggle.

Take care of yourself -- it's an important way you can take care for your preemie. Healthy mommy makes for a healthy, thriving baby.

What has been your biggest challenge as a preemie parent?

Photo courtesy of iStockphoto.