What to Expect with a Preemie


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Every expectant family’s plan is to carry their babies for 9 months, give or take, and then, of course, to always have a healthy baby. But unfortunately, as you know the saying, life does not always go as planned. In fact, it rarely does. Claim Your 20 Free Pregnancy Tests – Click Here

And with that said, you could carry a healthy baby for 9 months and it then can be born by inhaling meconium to the point that oxygen would be lost. And then the baby would end up likely having special needs lifelong as a result. And, the severity of the disability will be the telltale sign of how severe the loss was at birth. The same applies to babies that are born before 9 months as well.

And, we are not even talking babies that are born at 8.5 months, and even in some cases, babies born at 8 months may be healthy and large enough to be taken home right away. I am talking about babies that are born before the 8-month mark, and that is when the complications due to them being premature can have more of an impact on them for life.

And, that is also when you must learn about what to expect when you have an infant that is premature. Let’s talk about some of the crucial points that must be known whenever it comes to babies that had left the womb too soon:

The premature infant cannot be held by mom or dad right away

– The thing is if a baby is born under 36 weeks pregnant (or under 37 weeks if the baby is very small), then the baby will need to be whisked away into the NICU right away. That is because they had arrived long before the due date, and as a result, there is a good chance that most of their organs are underdeveloped. Especially their lungs.

NICU baby

And, they need to be hooked onto machinery to help them breathe, and they need to be fed usually via NG tubes because they are too immature to suckle. Mom and dad can visit, and the infant can be held as long as he or she is making progress, but it can’t happen right away. Not to mention, the infant may be in the NICU for weeks, or even months if the baby was born at 32 weeks or before.

Premature babies are extremely vulnerable to germs

– Even term babies are vulnerable to germs because their immune systems are still immature. However, preemies are even more vulnerable and the risk of them developing complications due to catching a bug is higher than even a newborn that was born at term. But a preemie’s immune system is even more so underdeveloped than a newborn’s immune system that was born at term, or close to that time. This is why whenever anyone will be handling the baby in the NICU, they need to sanitize their hands and wear masks so that they don’t pass any germs onto the premature baby.

The premature baby will have a hard time feeding

– It was already said that preemies will need to be fed through NG tubes or through IVs, but their digestive system is underdeveloped. And, they don’t have the ability to suckle, and sometimes they are not ready to take in formula or breast milk. And moms that want to breastfeed their premature babies can always pump their milk and store it because eventually the preemie will be mature enough to start eating normally.

Feeding Premie

The preemie’s sleeping schedule will be different

– The fact of the matter is that preemies need to be fed even more frequently than their full-term counterparts. And, once the preemie is mature enough and well enough to be taken home, they will be waking up even more frequently in the day and the night to be fed even more a newborn that was born at term would. And, eventually they will sleep through the night, but it won’t happen nearly as quickly for them as it would for a newborn that was born at term.

You’ll be having to take your premature baby to the pediatrician a lot more often than you would with a newborn born at term

– The fact that your baby was born a lot earlier than expected, your baby will be at more risk for ending up with complications due to being underdeveloped. This means that your baby will need more frequent check ups to make sure that your baby is developing well and becoming stronger.

Be prepared to become a special needs parent

– Many babies that were born prematurely turn out to be just fine developmentally, but unfortunately, the risk of them developing special needs of some sort is high. That is because they came out too early and will end up developing at a different pace than their full-term counterparts.

This means it is essential to look for signs of the baby failing to develop properly, even if it is at a different time frame than expected. If the premature baby is not smiling for instance by 6 months, then there is a cause for concern. The risk of conditions such as blindness, autism, moderate to severe ADHD, and even an intellectual disability are higher with premature infants.

Especially if they were born prior to 32 weeks.

MOm and Dad

This is why it is best to have occupational therapists, physical therapists, speech therapists, and other specialists lined up in case your child will need therapy. And, some premature babies are born with cerebral palsy which does not always interfere with intelligence, but anyone with this condition needs therapy as well.


As you see, premature babies are a lot more fragile than their full-term counterparts because of the fact that they arrived before they were ready. However, the good news with the advancing medical technology, premature babies even those that were born prior to 32 weeks have a better chance and turning out healthy and fine than they did years ago.

However, parents need to be aware that they will be grieving for the babies that they had expected to have. Especially if their premature baby does end up having special needs in the end. It is also understandable for them to be jealous of other moms who give birth to healthy full-term babies.

And, parents of preemies that have special needs will even feel jealous towards moms of premature babies that did not end up becoming developmentally delayed at all. This is why parents of premature babies need support, and moms must never blame themselves for the early birth. Terrible and less than desirable situations that are out of anyone’s control can happen to anyone. And, that also applies to premature births.

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Dr. Prabha Sahgal, MD
Dr. Prabha Sahgal, MD | ConceiveEasy
Dr. Prabha Sahgal MD, is board certified in obstetrics and gynecology and subspecialty board certified in reproductive endocrinology and infertility. Dr. Sahgal holds a B.S. degree from MIT in molecular biology and currently serves on the ConceiveEasy board of directors.