Babies born early but "healthy" need watching, too
Thursday, April 16, 2009
Everyone knows the scary stories about babies born way too soon-the long stays in the hospital and risks that linger for years. But what about the babies who arrive between 32 and 36 weeks?
Dr. Rupa Nimmagadda, a Chicago-based pediatrician and former director of the neonatal follow-up clinic at the University of Chicago Hospitals, says while those babies appear completely healthy, they also have their own unique health risks.
The main risk is that these babies are less able to fight infection than full-term infants because their lung development and immunoglobulin transmission wasn't complete. "I don't think we need to shock people," Nimmagadda says about warning parents of the risks, but "the first year of their life, I would be very vigilant just to make sure things are OK."
• Focus on prevention. Minimize exposure to illness, stress hand-washing around baby and get flu shots.
• Put babies on their back to sleep, especially babies with low birth weight, because they are at a higher risk for SIDS. Get tummy time when the baby is awake.
• Don't smoke. Even secondhand smoke puts babies at risk. Those born at 32-36 weeks are at a higher risk than full-term babies because their lungs are not as developed.