Holding a premature baby close to your chest, skin-to-skin, can help them to regulate their breathing, temperature and heartbeat. This is referred to as Kangaroo Care and can also help with a mother’s milk production, facilitate breastfeeding, promote bonding and reduce stress.
The suck reflex of a baby develops at approximately 34 weeks gestation, meaning that babies born too soon are tube fed until they are strong enough to develop and co-ordinate their suck, breath and swallow reflex. Sometimes premature babies will ‘practice’ and develop their suck with the aid of a micro, tiny dummy in their incubators!
A mothers immunity is passed to her baby in the final months of pregnancy. Born too soon, a premature baby’s immune system will not be as strong as a full term baby’s as fewer antibodies will have passed between them.
To produce breast milk, mothers of babies born too soon will express on a 3-4 hourly cycle. This routine continues while baby is in hospital, including overnight, as mothers bring their expressed breast milk in from home.
There is a financial cost to having a premature baby, with parents spending on average an extra £2,256 over the course of their hospital stay. These costs can continue with subsequent re-admissions and numerous follow-up appointments.