Know How Your Preemie Will Grow

If your baby was born prematurely, you're part of a trend. More than 12 percent of births are now premature, according to the March of Dimes.

Medical advances have made it possible for premature infants to survive and develop normally. An infant is considered premature if born before 37 weeks.

What should you expect during your child's development?

Premature babies may grow at a slower rate than full-term babies, but often catch up in height and weight by 2 years of age. But premature babies are more likely to have trouble with speech, motor skills, hearing or vision.

Here are some suggestions:

  • See your child's doctor regularly. Premature babies may not feed as well, so the pediatrician will check their weight gain and head circumference to see that they're growing properly.

  • Premature babies are at a greater risk for infections because their immune systems aren't completely developed. Vaccines should be started on schedule based on the child's chronological age. . Many premature infants are at greater risk for respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), and may benefit from receiving RSV antibody injections to protect them from this serious viral infection.

  • Influenza can be more dangerous in premature babies than full-term ones, so family members should consider getting a flu shot during flu season to prevent getting the flu and passing it on to the baby. Premature infants can also receive the flu shot if they are at least 6 months old.

  • Keep it clean. Family members and caregivers should wash their hands often to head off coughs, colds and other contagious ailments.

  • Seek help if needed. Community agencies can help children with developmental delays. Ask your child's doctor or your local school district.

  • Heredity, home life and school also affect your child's development. A healthy, active environment can help your little one flourish.

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