Having a premature, ill or disabled baby can be an extremely distressing experience for a parent. At TinyLife we have a wealth of experience in helping parents and families to cope with this situation, and a deep understanding of what you may be going through.
Our Family Support Team have put together some of the questions which come up time and again for people experiencing what you are going through. As with so many other difficult experiences in life, it is, we believe, always a comfort to know that others have been there before you and have found ways of coping.
Q: My baby was very premature, and I’m worried that I did something wrong during my pregnancy. Why are babies born prematurely?
In most cases, premature birth happens without warning and without an obvious medical explanation. A mum who has had a normal pregnancy and received good antenatal care may still give birth prematurely. There is absolutely nothing she will have done to cause her baby to be born prematurely.
Sometimes premature birth happens because of medical conditions during pregnancy, such as kidney disease, problems with the uterus, prenatal complications like pre-eclampsia (pregnancy related high blood pressure)or an infection of the uterus.
Three things however which are within a woman’s control during pregnancy and that do increase the risk of a premature birth are:
Smoking – slows placenta growth and can lead to an early birth.
Drug abuse – can lead to many complications in pregnancy, including premature birth. Lack of adequate prenatal care – good prenatal care can identify complications which, if treated early, can prevent an early birth.
Q: I wanted to breastfeed my baby but because she came so early, she’s being tube-fed. Will I ever be able to breastfeed her?
Your baby’s age and medical situation will affect when you will be able to breastfeed her. Babies do not generally develop the physical ability to suck and swallow efficiently until around 32 to 34 weeks.
The age and stage at which a premature baby will be ready to breastfeed is a case-by-case decision. Each neonatal unit will have its own criteria for making such a decision, so talk to the doctors and nurses in the unit.
In the meantime, keep on expressing your breast milk using an electric breast pump, and try to concentrate on the fact that your baby is getting the best nutrition you can give them even if they are not able to breastfeed directly yet.