If your baby is born prematurely, he may have missed out on weeks or even months of growth and development in the womb. For example, if he is born 10 weeks early, when he turns 10 weeks old, he is only really at the stage he would have been on his expected date of delivery. As your baby grows and develops you need to bear in mind his expected date of delivery along with his birth date.
Try not to compare your premature baby with his full-term peers
Even well babies who are born just a few weeks early may, for example, smile later than their peers. This is not surprising. Although you’ll be excited and keen to see your baby developing, try not to see the milestones of development as a race; instead see them as an order of events that babies tend to follow. Premature babies often catch up with their peers but for example a baby born at 30 weeks is 25% ‘younger’ than a baby born full-term at 40 weeks. To put that into perspective, a seven year old is around 25% younger than a 10 year old… and you wouldn’t compare their development.
Growth and development in premature babies
Some babies, especially extremely premature babies and babies whose prematurity was related to a medical problem, may have more marked developmental delays. The earlier your baby was born, the higher the risks to his development.
Premature birth can affect your baby’s development, and it’s crucial that you and your baby’s healthcare team watch and intervene early to support his development and growth.
Growth and prematurity
Premature babies catch up with their peers, although this will depend on their genes (for example, if they have tall parents).
It’s worth taking your baby to the paediatricians can monitor his progress and offer treatment or support where needed.
Try to avoid comparing your child to others, as he is ‘younger’ than his immediate peers. You may find that he smiles a little later than you would expect for his birth date, but if you compare his development to what you would expect for his ‘corrected’ date, you and your baby’s doctor will be better able to assess and enjoy your baby’s development.
Your baby may not be smiling at the six-week check and may not be sitting unaided at the six to eight-month check, but your GP will bear your baby’s prematurity in mind during his assessment.