How to care for your late preterm baby, born between 35-37 weeks of pregnancy.
There is a chance of certain health problems and it is important to know what to watch for.
Late preterm babies can have breathing problems. If you notice any breathing problems, contact your family doctor or midwife right away. If you cannot contact them, call 9-1-1 if you notice any:
- fast breathing (more than 60 breaths in one minute when not crying)
- very slow breathing (less than 30 breaths in one minute).
- trouble getting his or her breath
If you have questions about your baby’s breathing, you can call HealthLink BC at 8-1-1 to speak to a nurse.
All babies should be placed on their backs to sleep unless they are sleeping skin-to-skin on you.
Your baby may be sleepier than a full term baby and might not wake up when it is time to feed. Wake your baby to feed if it has been more than three to four hours.
Contact your family doctor, midwife, lactation consultant, or public health nurse as soon as possible if your baby is too sleepy to feed, or will not stay awake to feed.
Late preterm babies often have less body fat than a baby born at full term. With less fat, it is harder for them to keep a normal body temperature. As a general rule, your baby is the right temperature when your baby’s neck is warm but not sweaty and hands are cool but not cold. Your baby’s temperature should be between 36.5°C and 37.4°C (measured with the digital thermometer in the centre of the armpit until the thermometer beeps).
Your baby should not be overdressed or under-dressed. A good rule is to dress your baby in one more layer than you are wearing.
If you find your baby is cool, one of the easiest ways to warm your baby up is to undress him or her. Place your baby directly on your bare chest (skin-to-skin), then cover up together under a warm blanket. When you keep your baby skin-to-skin as much as possible, you help your baby stay warm and put on weight faster.
*skin-to-skin should only be done when you are awake or monitored by another alert adult
Feeding your baby breast milk and keeping your baby skin-to-skin gives the best protection from infection.
Until your baby reaches what would be 40 weeks or full term (your due date):
- Avoid taking your baby into crowded areas or around those who are sick.
- Ask others to wash their hands before touching your baby.
- If you think your baby is sick or has a temperature over 38°C, contact your family doctor or midwife.
Jaundice (yellowing skin)
Any baby can get yellowing of the skin, called jaundice (sounds like jaw-n-dis). If not treated right away, jaundice can cause serious health problems.
Jaundice can develop after leaving the hospital. The best way to avoid jaundice is to feed your baby every two to three hours.
If you notice any of the following, contact your family doctor or midwife:
- Your baby’s skin turns more yellow.
- Your baby’s tummy, arms, or legs are yellow.
- The whites of your baby’s eyes are yellow.
- It is very hard to wake your baby up.
- Your baby is very fussy.
- Your baby is not nursing well or taking other milk supplements well (like expressed breast milk or formula).
Your baby should have at least eight feedings in a 24-hour period. Late preterm babies eat smaller amounts, need to eat more often, and can be slower to feed than babies born at full term.
Watch your baby closely for signs of hunger. Signs of a hungry baby include stirring, stretching, sucking motions, lip movements, fussing and crying. Sometimes late preterm babies do not show any signs of being hungry. In the first few weeks, you might need to wake your baby to feed. Until your baby begins to gain weight, you might even need to set your alarm to wake up at night to feed your baby.
Your baby can have problems coordinating latching, sucking, and swallowing. Signs of this include coughing, choking, and swallowing air. During feeds, watch your baby closely and burp your baby often.
To make sure your baby is getting enough milk, keep track of the number of wet diapers and bowel movements (poo). Once your milk is fully in, your baby’s bowel movements should turn from black to greeny brown to yellow. By the time your baby is four days old, your baby should have more than five wet diapers and at least two to three bowel movements each day.
To make sure your baby is getting enough nutrients, your doctor, midwife, or lactation consultant might have you give your baby a supplement after nursing with expressed breast milk or formula.
Contact your family doctor, midwife, lactation consultant or public health nurse as soon as possible if your baby will not feed, has not fed well for the last two feeds, or is not having bowel movement (going poo) regularly.
Your baby must be seen by your family doctor or midwife within two days of going home. Your doctor or midwife checks your baby’s weight, feeding patterns, and level of jaundice.