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  • 'Sinok' Makes Premature Babies Grow? 7 Myths About Preemies

    Unfortunately, your preemie baby's hiccups have nothing to do with his weight or size.
    by Lei Dimarucut-Sison .
'Sinok' Makes Premature Babies Grow? 7 Myths About Preemies
PHOTO BY @Pixelistanbul/iStock
  • When you're carrying a life in your womb, you always hope that the entire pregnancy will progress without any complications, and that you will reach your full term (from the 39th week of gestation onwards). However, as with anything, there are events beyond our control, and we have to accept the fact that uncertainty is part of the journey. no matter how healthy you are, or how well you're taking care of yourself or the baby in your womb, anything could happen. Among others, you could give birth before you reach your due date and have a premature baby. 

    Premature birth or preterm birth is one where the baby is born before it reaches 37 weeks of gestational age. The baby is then called a premature baby, or a "preemie." A pregnancy becomes full term after the 39th week of gestation.

    Preemies need urgent and extra care. They are whisked to a hospital's Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) for a few days or weeks where they will because they will need help in breathing, they need to receive nutrition through an IV (reflexes like sucking and swallowing doesn’t kick in until around 34 weeks gestation), and they are at high risk of infections, among others.

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    Myths and facts about premature babies

    Before all the technological advances on childbirth and newborn care that we enjoy now, we had many years of unfounded beliefs and traditions that have been passed on through generations. Some of them have become our parents' and grandparents' guide in caring for their own children. However, not all of them are true. What are these beliefs and myths that we go by when it comes to caring for premature babies? How do we differentiate them from the truth? We take a look at some of them:

    Myth 1: Premature babies cannot be breastfed exclusively.

    Premature babies often have difficulty latching on to the breast because they still have not developed the suck-swallow-breathe technique. Some parents take this as a cue to give their babies formula milk, but in fact, there are other ways by which the preemie could be fed breast milk. You can provide your pumped breast milk either by cup feeding, where you bring the cup near his mouth so he can lap the milk using his tongue, or syringe feeding, where a syringe is the instrument used to feed the baby. In due time, when the baby is stronger, he will be ready to latch and drink directly from the breast.

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    Myth 2: A baby "grows" each time he has the hiccups.

    You might have heard an elder remark, "Uy sinisinok! Lumalaki sya nyan!" But did you know that your baby already hiccups inside your womb? When this happens, you, the mom, will feel something is popping inside. No need to worry, as it's just a sign that your baby's digestive system is developing. 

    Hiccups happen when there is a sudden contraction in the diaphragm. For premature babies, it could be a stress response to a variety of things, such as getting overstimulated, since your preemie still has immature organs that need to develop. Unfortunately, your baby's hiccups have nothing to do with his growth.

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    Myth 3: A preemie may go home from the hospital as soon as he reaches 5 pounds in weight.

    It is easy to think why people often equate prematurity with just a low birth weight and thus assume that the baby is all better when he weighs more. 

    However, there are other criteria which hospitals use to determine a preemie baby's readiness to leave the NICU. These criteria include: being able to breathe on his own, having the ideal body temperature (not too hot and not too cold) without the aid of blankets, being able to take in food through the mouth, and, of course, gaining weight.

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    Myth 4: Your baby will always be smaller than kids his age because he's a preemie.

    Your preemie lacks a few precious weeks inside the womb to mature, yes, but in time — and with proper nutrition and care — most preemies can catch up. In fact, they'll likely have the same size and/or weight as other babies their age within the first year of life, barring other complications.

    Myth 5: A late premature baby is almost like a full-term baby (that is just a few weeks short).

    Bambi Borneo, president of the Mother and Child Nurses Association of the Philippines, Inc. (MCNAP), says there are four sub-classifications of premature babies:

    • Late preterm - born between the 34th and 36th weeks
    • Moderately preterm - born between 32nd and 34th weeks
    • Very preterm - born at less than 32 weeks
    • Extremely preterm - born at or before 25 weeks
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    Preterm babies are prone to infections because they miss out on the antibodies that are passed on from the mother in the final stage of pregnancy because they came out early. For this same reason, they are also at risk of developing conditions involving their respiratory, neurological, and physiological health.

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    A more specific example would be their brain development. A baby who is born at only 35 weeks still has not developed myelin, a fatty substance that helps speed up the transmission of nerve impulses in the brain. Because of this, babies born prematurely may be prone to crying episodes because they lack the neurological capacity to soothe themselves.

    Myth 6: Premature babies eat less than full-term babies. 

    It may be true to a certain extent, in that full-term babies take in more food than their premature counterparts. However, bear in mind that preemies have to be fed more frequently because their stomach is just the size of a calamansi on the day of birth, and can only take so much at once. Therefore, compared to your full-term baby who feeds every two hours, a preterm baby will need milk every 1 1/2 hours.

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    Myth 7: A preemie will still reach milestones at the same time as a full-term baby.

    Preemie or full-term, your baby's development should not be gauged against another baby's because every individual is different. However, keep in mind that your baby was not yet fully mature when he was born, to begin with. If you are to use any standards, it's best to use your baby's due date when measuring his milestones. Consult and work with your pediatrician to monitor his progress. 

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