Across the world, 15 million babies are born preterm every year.
That’s around 1 in 10 families who will have to navigate the births, deaths, disabilities and medical conditions that they could never have predicted.
On 17th November each year, awareness is raised about Prematurity and the lasting impact it can have on families.
Preterm birth is defined as a birth before 37 weeks of gestation. The earlier the baby is born, the greater the risk of complications such as cerebral palsy, developmental delay, learning disability, vision and hearing impairment and neonatal death. Complications associated with preterm birth result in an approximate 1 million infant deaths a year worldwide.
The causes of premature birth are varied but Botswana has committed to improving the outcomes of preterm infants. Key interventions include prevention of adolescent pregnancy; improved care during pregnancy; skilled delivery; early initiation of breastfeeding; early postnatal care and promotion of Kangaroo Care.
Antenatal care is important. Always communicate with your doctor or health practitioner if you are worried something is wrong.
Cheralize, the new partner at SensoBaby, has experience of having her son prematurely, this is her story.
De Waal was born prematurely at 34 weeks.
As a first-time mom, going into labor early was terrifying. I wondered if I had done something wrong and if it could be prevented. My little boy was born through an Emergency Cesarean because he went into distress and it was the best way to get him help as quick as possible. His weight was 2.23kg. That’s not bad for a premature baby but he was immediately rushed the NICU as he could not breath on his own. He was on a ventilator and had to be put on feeding tubes.
Over the next 8 days he was monitored for his breathing heart rate. We could only see him through the incubator and after the first day was allowed only allowed to pick him up for a limited time only.
Because he was tube fed, he struggled to latch and could only take in small feeds. I had to put him on formula milk to help with feeding as I struggled to produce milk. He was only allowed to go home if we could feed him every four hours so once he managed that and was breathing well we took him home. We had to keep an eye on his breathing by using a monitor that you put under the mattress that indicates if there is a problem. Those early days were very anxious and stressful.
We took him home at a weight of 1.85kg, the smallest little baby I have seen in my life. At the end of the day he is now 4 and a half and an energetic little man! We might have ups and downs but he is healthy and growing everyday.
8 Things I Wish I Had Known About Having a Premature Baby
Integration of the senses starts in utero. When babies are born early they are more likely to have sensory issues or problems with sensory processing as they grow up.
- Premature babies’ first tactile experiences are often unpleasant. Although medically necessary, their experiences may lead to tactile defensives. With my son, food has been an issue from day one because of his experiences with being intubated and tube fed.
- The age of your baby is adjusted to their due date, so whilst others meet milestones at particular times, premature babies may meet them much later.
- The importance of ’tummy time’ and early developmental play to support growth and sensory integration. That’s why I have gone on to train as a Developmental Play Practitioner.
- It can be scary to hold such a small baby. They feel so fragile so everything can feel very daunting.
- Food continued to be a problem as my son grew and he has sensory issues associated with his early experiences. For that reason we have struggled to keep his weight up and have had to try a lot of new ideas to help with feeding.
- Support network is important. NICU is a stressful environment and not something you can really prepare for. It’s okay to lean on family and friends and ask for help.
- You don’t forget those early days and experiences. It can be the most scary and stressful time of your life. Don’t hesitate to get support and advice if you need to.
If you have experience of having a premature baby and would like advice in where to find support, you can contact us directly on 75305964 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. If you would like to support another family going through these challenges, or share your experiences, please get in touch.
This year SensoBaby fundraising will go towards supporting new initiatives in the Neonatal Department at Princess Marina.
You can find out more information at the following websites: