a late preterm baby - how can that affect my baby and me?
a baby between 34 and 37 weeks in pregnancy is referred to
as late preterm. While a baby born at this time is not as
likely to have problems as the earlier preterm babies, they
have not reached full maturity, which happens between 37 and
40 weeks. Around 7% of babies are born late preterm. These
babies may also be called “near term” and they
account for 71% of all premature births (premature births
are those occurring before 37 weeks in pregnancy).
it is unavoidable that a baby needs to be born early due to
a pregnancy complication. Parents can be reassured that their
baby will receive excellent care and that most of these babies
will be fine. It can be very helpful to know what to expect
and what questions to ask if you are faced with this situation.
born between 34 and 37 weeks may look healthy and can usually
breathe on their own, giving the impression that they are
full term. However they are still developing many of their
systems that help them to adjust to life outside the uterus.
They are more likely to spend extra time in the nursery or
newborn intensive care unit (NICU) because they may have problems
from being born early. Even if they do not require NICU care,
they do need special considerations.
preterm babies may have feeding problems. They often eat
less at a feeding, and may have more trouble coordinating
sucking and swallowing. They have more reflux (a painful
condition where stomach contents go back up into the esophagus).
They may be sleepier and are often difficult to wake for
preterm babies are also more likely to have breathing problems
following birth and later are more likely to catch RSV,
a virus that can lead to pneumonia and other respiratory
They may have a more difficult time keeping their body temperature
up because they have less body fat. They may also have more
immature immune systems and should be watched more closely
preterm babies develop jaundice more often than full term
babies do. In jaundice, the skin turns yellow from the bilirubin
count in the blood. It is a serious condition which must
be watched closely and sometimes treated if the bilirubin
count in the blood gets too high. This is determined by
a blood test. Jaundice may lead to an extra day or two in
the hospital to treat, or the need to treat at home.
babies have blood sugar problems (hypoglycemia) more often
than full-term babies.
should be aware of these concerns and talk to their baby’s
doctor or nurse practitioner about how to care for their child.
It may be recommended that the baby be seen within a few days
after going home.
is especially important because it protects against infection
and breastmilk is more easily digested. Since a late preterm
baby may not nurse often or vigorously, the mother may want
to also use a breast pump to stimulate the breast to increase
milk production until the baby is nursing more vigorously.
Breastfeeding support from experts is very helpful. The baby
may also need to be awakened to eat in the early days or weeks.
things parents can do to protect their late preterm infant
child is unique and may have special needs. Discuss these
with your baby’s doctor or nurse practitioner.
sleepy, wake the baby for feedings, feed the baby frequently,
burping often during the feeding.
smokers and anyone who is sick who may spread germs to your
your baby warm.
skin-to-skin contact (kangaroo care).
with lactation specialists to help with breastfeeding success.
with all newborn babies, place your baby on his or her back
Today, September, 2008
News, “Warning of near-term birth risk”, 2004.
Accessed at http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/1/hi/health/3528056.stm.
Jenn. “Near Term babies Need More Care. What parents
need to know about their near term infants.” Accessed
of Dimes, “Late Preterm Birth: Every Week Matters”
Medical Perspectives on Prematurity. March 2006.
et al. “Clinical Outcomes of Near-Term Infants”.
Pediatrics Vol. 114 No. 2 August 2004.