7 Tips for Late-Term Preemie Care


Photo by Michele Zipp
Hunter, a month old

My twins were late-term preemies, which means they were born between 34 and 37 weeks. I delivered via c-section due to preeclampsia HELLP syndrome at 36 weeks. But both Hunter and Penelope were born healthy, even though each weighed under 5 pounds. Their lungs were functioning well, they didn't have jaundice or need to be under the lamps, and no NICU time was required. After a scary ordeal, I felt very, very lucky because this isn't always the case with preemies.

They were tiny, so tiny in fact that one of my friends screeched when she saw them. Of course, I thought they were perfect. But looking back at those first photos, I realize how frail they looked. Especially compared to how they look now, all chubby at 5 months.

There are some important things to keep in mind when caring for a late-term preemie or any preemie once they get home.

  • preemie
    Photo by Michele Zipp
    Penelope just a few weeks old
    They'll sleep through feedings. We set an alarm to go off every three hours to wake the twins up to eat for the first few weeks of their life. There were some feedings they were up and ready to eat, but others they had to be roused to nurse. They needed the nourishment to grow and not get dehydrated, so we made sure we kept a tight schedule.
  • A preemie's neck is even more prone to slouching, which can constrict the airways. Support for the head and neck is even more imperative for a preemie.
  • A lot of preemies have issues with latch. I've heard nipple shields help, but I didn't have to get one because Penelope, the one who had some latch issues, worked it out. 
  • Some have nipple confusion because they aren't introduced to breast first. I didn't encounter this because my twins wanted to eat (the placentas weren't supplying enough nutrients to them near the end) and they ate out of everything -- a bottle, a cup, a special straw, and even my breast. I sadly couldn't breastfeed the first day because of all the drugs I was on to stabilize me due to my preeclampsia HELLP, so that's why these other measures had to be taken.
  • They have extremely sensitive immune systems. My babies were born in December in NYC at a time when it seemed everyone had swine flu. I was so freaked out I didn't want any visitors in those early days. Too risky, plus I was still sick and felt awful. Not just hand-washing, but arm-washing was so important. Plus, I didn't want anyone to hold the babies without their blanket as a barrier against their skin in case the person was wearing perfume or had a lotion on or even a detergent on their clothes that could irritate the babies.
  • twins
    Photo by Michele Zipp
    The twins today
    Kangaroo care is essential. Sometimes after nursing the babies, I had a twin, sometimes both, lying on my chest with skin-to-skin contact. My husband did the same. This really helps them thrive.
  • A lot of things don't fit a preemie. Not even the preemie clothes fit my babies, but more importantly, sometimes the car seat is too big. Be sure you have an infant-only car seat and consult a certified expert to keep your small baby safe. Read the manual for the car seat and this car seat safety post.

Was your baby a preemie? What are some of the special precautions or things you did to care for your preemie?

development & growth, multiples, newborns, twins & more


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lovel... lovelywife

My daughter was born at 36 weeks too. Other then telling me that she might have some issues with breastfeeding or bottlefeeding they didn't tell me much else. She was jaundice, spent the first week of her life on a billi bed. It was awful.  We quickly learned that she would be susceptible to illnesses faster and worse then my first child. She also had swallowing issues after the issue with sucking was overcome. Around her first month she started projectile vomiting and we couldn't keep any formula in her. The doctor diagnosed her with GERD. She was also incredibly sensitive to light, sound, and touch. She was very hard to soothe. She's almost 4 now and has terrible allergies and when she does get sick she gets REALLY sick. Other then that she's a normal child. I just wish someone had told me about the things you mentioned in this blog earlier.

B.DiS... B.DiSylvester

I love how chubby they are now! So cute!!! I want to nibble them! You're such a good mama, Michele!

tazdvl tazdvl

They are so cute!!!

RanaA... RanaAurora

Great info.  Your body was made for bakin' babies.  I'm still so impressed you kept them in for that long.

Rowan was either 36/37 weeks, and fortunately had no issues either, but he was 5lbs 8oz and looked super-fragile too.

a743ebc5.jpg image by RanaAurora

Cafe... Cafe MicheleZ

Aww look at Rowan! What a sweetie pie. He's grown to be such a handsome lil guy.

sodapple sodapple

omg! your children are so cute!! i can't believe time has gone by so fast, keep doing what you are doing mami because its going great!!

ethan... ethans_momma06

Wow, they have gotten so big and are such cuties!! I loved the tips but since I haven't had a premie I don't really have anything else to add. I really hope that someone can benefit from this article (and your expirience).

tonya... tonyalynn

they are so cute

mom23... mom23boys679

My son was born a day shy of 37 weeks and still had severe respiratory issues, and bad jaundice. It was a very scary experience having a child in the NICU. Even though he was a day shy of the 'full term' (I call full term 40 weeks - but never made it past 39w in a pregnancy) I never imagined all the emotional pain having a child in the NICU can carry and I only had him in there a week. I can't imagine the pain a mom of a micro preemie feels. Great article - will pass along!

frysh... fryshannon34


No preemies her but congrats to you

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