I’m blessed to have experienced both premature and full term births. My older twins were born prematurely; they were so tiny, and we spent close to two weeks in the hospital, most of which they spent in the incubator. The girl twin did better than the boy; in fact, that was when, I knew that preemie baby girls were always stronger, health wise than boys of same age. The doctors kept talking about the difference in their reaction to treatment.
By day two, after their birth, the girl could pretty much breath on her own and even started breastfeeding, but it was not the case with her brother, who needed oxygen to breathe, 24/7. There were times, I thought, I would lose him. But three days, after we christened them in the hospital, their doctor said they could go home.
Before then, the feeding tube that was passed through his nose to his stomach was removed, the plaster wound on the bridge of his nose was fading away and I could carry him for longer and actually breast feed, without using the injection thing to measure exactly 5mls of breast milk to pass via the feeding tube. It was such a relief, when they both got out of the incubators and could sleep beside my mom and I in the ward for brief spells in the afternoon. It was like pure heaven.
By the time, I had the second set of twins, it felt like, time stood still and I was just lugging myself and bump about, waiting for the day, the kids would show up. Even though, I gave birth on a day, I wasn’t prepared to, as I still had exactly 13 days to go, I was so relieved that they came. Mehn, I was tired of being pregnant!
Everything felt different, my body knew what it was doing and it was doing a good job, having had time to prepare itself. For one, I was not worried that they were going to need emergency medical care. I was more concerned about finding out the sex of the second twin, who had been playing hide and seek, throughout my pregnancy.
Even though, the second twin’s birth weight was low, it was not like that of her preemie older ones. With them too, no one was telling me to pray that the second twins come, she came out not long after her brother, in tight foetal position that showed, she had indeed been squeezed into a corner by her brother. It took a while for her to cry, but the doctor, checked and noted that she was breathing, before handing her over to the nurses to clean up. The birthing experience was different, their development too is different.
Perhaps, there is a new mom out there worried about having a preterm baby, not to worry; mine survived with no lasting damage on them. They are almost 8 years old now and they meet all the developmental milestones of their age mates and some more. Here are five differences between a full term baby and a preemie.
- The average rules do not apply to them
With my first twins, I read so much about pregnancy, childbirth, parenting twins and such. In fact, when my water, broke, I read and what was happening to me, at that stage in my pregnancy, wasn’t supposed to be happening. I dithered between wanting to go to the hospital and staying put at home, as though, nothing had happened. Preemies break all the rules, all your expectations are broken by those tiny beings, but they are worth it.
With preemies, you learn how to adapt your surrounding and life to their needs. While a full-term baby is ready for stimulation, exercise and play time, a preemie is here before they are ready and so requires quiet surroundings and being swaddled just like in the womb.
In addition, you have likely heard that the best way to protect your baby from SIDS is to have them sleep on their backs. While this is true for a full-term baby, your paediatrician might advise otherwise with your preemie, since tummy sleeping can help with oxygen flow and comfort.
- Their Actual age is different from their ‘corrected’ age
I was so conscious of their corrected age, when they were much younger, as I constantly compared them to babies, born around their birthday and then babies, who were born at their ‘corrected’ age. It was a bit back and forth, but I was an expert in that process back then. I have since stopped though.
You see, not all babies are three months old after three months out of the womb. When my babies were three months old, as per their birthday, their ‘corrected’ age was actually less than that, thus their development reflected their “corrected” not their actual age. To figure out your baby’s adjusted age you simply deduct the number of weeks they were born early from their actual age.
- They will reach milestones at different times
It was with eagle eyes that my mom and I monitored the development of the preemie twins. She watched out for their development, based on their actual age and I did the “corrected” age bit. By their first birthday, there wasn’t much difference, except in their weight, which was a bit lower than average, even though, they were walking and had grown some teeth.
On the other hand, the full age twins went through all the process quite well. They were faster and I dare say, smarter too.
The speed at which baby reaches milestones will always vary depending on whether, they are a preemie or a full-term baby. Keep in mind your child’s adjusted age versus their actual age, however, if you find yourself concerned talk to your paediatrician about your baby’s progress.
- Health Concerns
While, we were in the hospital, the nurses hammered into my head, the importance of hygiene concerning the twins. I washed my boobs, before I either expressed milk or breastfed, washed my hands all the time, before, I carried them. For the weeks, we spent in the hospital, I could count the number of hands, who carried them. When people came for their christening at the hospital, my mom and I carried them, no one else was allowed to touch them and immediately, afterwards, they were moved to the incubators.
They have no lasting health condition though, as a result of being born prematurely, at least, none that I have noticed. In fact, there will not be any.
According to studies, a premature baby is more susceptible to serious infections than full-term new borns.
If you had asked me, before, if I knew what feeding tubes were, you would have drawn blank, but I saw it done first hand, not once but twice on my son. I expressed milk, measured 5mls and watched the nurses inject through the tube at regular intervals throughout the day, even at night.
Depending on your preemie’s needs you can expect to add the possibility of intravenous lines, umbilical catheters, oral and nasal feigns and even a central line, all in a bid to get some food to your baby. Never mind that their bodies, will also be pumped full of medications as well, so they need the nutrition to get things working.
Those are some differences between a preemie and a full term baby. Although, at age 5, there should cease to be any difference between them. You can permanently use their real age, and forget the ‘corrected’ age, like I have.
Preemie, full term, it doesn’t matter; they all make your heart race, in a good way.
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