The Premature Baby

person holding baby s hand

Having a baby a little earlier than expected can be stressful, particularly if they need a care in an Neonatal Unit. We recently spoke to Mary Cullinane, a NNU Nurse in Cork University Maternity Hospital about what parents can expect when their baby is admitted to NNU. You can listen to that episode of our podcast later in this article.

We also see babies at our clinic who were born prematurely.

One the main issues we see in premature babies is that their nervous system is often in a state of fight or flight. The earlier a baby is born and longer they spend in NICU, the more likely this is. Premature babies can cry more often, a sign of their immature nervous system. Other signs that they are under stress are:

  • they can be very alert
  • they are often in constant motion
  • and they like to be held a lot.

Parents often bring their baby to see us for a digestive issue they may be having and again, this is not unusual as their digestive systems are a little immature and in need of support.

Premature babies are often windy and their bowels can be sluggish. One of the reasons for this is that research has shown that premature babies have has fewer good bacteria compared to bad bacteria in their bowel. Breast feeding will help promote good bacteria in the gut, as will skin to skin. A breastfeeding mum can supplement the good bacteria by taking a probiotic herself too. If a premature baby is bottle fed, it is worth giving baby a good infant probiotic for at least 6 weeks. I have seen the beneficial effects of doing this in the babies attending my clinic.

Here are our Top 9 things to bring with you to the NNU if your baby is born preterm.

  1. Notebook and pen – you will be given new information about your baby almost every day and the best way to remember it is to write it down. You may also want to make some notes about what happened that day, what time baby was fed at or questions you may have for the staff.
  2. Diary or a journal – it can help to keep a diary of each day as it can give you a sense of control. The days can melt together, and it can be difficult to remember what happened even yesterday. Keeping a record will help.
  3. A muslin cloth that has been worn by you – Having your scent near baby will help to keep them calm. Even though you cannot be with them all the time, they know their Mum. It also helps to leave them there when you know they have a little bit of you next to them.
  4. A blanket – Use a soft cotton blanket when baby is in your arms to keep them warm and cosy. Preterm babies can lose heat easily, particularly when removed from their warm incubator.
  5. Wear loose clothing – If you are doing skin to skin with baby, or if you are breastfeeding your baby, loose clothing will help.
  6. A mirror – a small mirror will help you see baby’s face when you are doing skin to skin. Never miss a moment or an expression or a little yawn.
  7. Photographs – if you have other children at home, it’s important to include them in baby’s care. While they cannot come in to see baby, a photograph of them attached to the incubator or crib will show them that they are a very important part of this new baby’s care.
  8. Cooler bag – If you are breast feeding, having a cooler bag for expressed breast milk will save time.
  9. Food and drinks – Having some nutritious snacks and drinks for yourself is very important too. You may get time to leave the NNU to get lunch, but you may not. And as a new Mum, recovering from birth and possibly breastfeeding, your nutrition is vital.

We spoke to Mary Cullinane, a NNU Nurse in Cork University Maternity Hospital about the babies she cares for every day. Mary has been working in NNU for many years and is a wonderfully caring and dedicated nurse and midwife. Listen to this episode of our podcast below.

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