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Baby Care Basics: Concerns for Premature Babies

If your baby is a preemie, she will likely have some difficulties in the beginning. Find out how to help your premature baby--and your family-- thrive.

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Babies born prematurely usually need to spend time in the neonatal intensive care unit or NICU. With premies, it's important to know these facts. Breathing problems happen because their lungs aren't fully developed. Your baby may be given extra oxygen or hooked to a ventilator or something called a CPAP machine. Many premies also stop breathing occasionally, a condition called apnea. But in the NICU, they're carefully monitored for this. Because premies have less body fat, your infant will probably be placed in an incubator to help her control her body temperature. There can be feeding difficulties. Until she learns to suck effectively, your baby may be fed through a tube. But the nurses can still give her any breast milk that you pump, or freeze it for use in the future. Also, premies usually take longer to reach milestones like rolling over, and they're more likely to have learning disabilities. Regular checkups will be important, so you and your doctor can detect problems early. Early intervention, which can include physical therapy and speech therapy, can make a big difference. Be sure to ask questions as many times as you need to. And remember, with today's medical advances, chances are that your tiny little baby will grow into a healthy, normal kid.