Caring for Your Premature Infant When Home

Your premature infant is coming home from the hospital. Congratulations! The moment you've been waiting for has finally arrived, but with it comes a great deal of anxiety over your little one. After so much anticipation, you may be overwhelmed with uncertainty about how to care for your preemie. Know that you're not alone.

Feeding, preventing illness, safety, and general baby care are all a little different for babies who were born early. Even if this is not your first baby, you may have trepidation about how to take care of your premature baby. Preemies are different from full-term babies and have different needs. Here's what to expect.


Feeding Your Preemie at Home

Mother bottle feeding her premature baby in the hospital nursery
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Even after NICU discharge, premature infants may have trouble taking in enough calories for good weight gain. Preemies need to have good weight gain to support catch up growth, but may not be quite strong enough to breastfeed or bottle-feed well. Parents may also wonder how much and how often their premature infant should be eating or how to encourage a sleepy baby to feed better.


Keeping Your Premature Infant Healthy

Female doctor examining newborn baby in incubator
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Because they were born early, some premature infants get sick more easily than full-term babies. Preemies are more likely to have a variety of health conditions, including chronic lung disease, that puts them at risk for respiratory infections, immature immune systems that make it difficult for them to fight infection or lingering gut issues from bouts with NEC. Happily, following a few simple rules will help prevent many illnesses in preemies.


Preventing SIDS in Premature Infants

The exact cause of sudden infant death syndrome is still unknown.

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Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) is a terrible tragedy. Unfortunately, premature infants have a higher risk of dying from SIDS than full-term babies. Although doctors still aren't sure exactly what causes SIDS, they do know that most cases of SIDS can be prevented by following recommended safe sleep practices.


Car Seat Safety

Baby in car seat.
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Premature infants may be very small when they're discharged from the NICU, and they may not fit safely into all car seats. Not only can it be tricky to position your preemie in a car seat, but the semi-upright position can cause your preemie to have trouble keeping an open airway. Protect your preemie by making sure that she is positioned safely in the car seat at all times.



Mother drying premature baby in hospital
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Although bathing your baby may seem like one of the simplest parenting tasks, giving a premature infant a bath for the first time can be scary! Learn the equipment you need and steps to take while giving your baby a bath, and how to keep your preemie warm during bath time.

4 Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Raaijmakers A, Allegaert K. Catch-Up Growth in Former Preterm Neonates: No Time to WasteNutrients. 2016;8(12):817. doi:10.3390/nu8120817

  2. KidsHealth. When Your Baby’s Born Premature.

  3. Ostfeld BM, Schwartz-soicher O, Reichman NE, Teitler JO, Hegyi T. Prematurity and Sudden Unexpected Infant Deaths in the United States. Pediatrics. 2017;140(1) doi:10.1542/peds.2016-3334

  4. KidsHealth. Taking Your Preemie Home.

By Cheryl Bird, RN, BSN
Cheryl Bird, RN, BSN, is a registered nurse in a tertiary level neonatal intensive care unit at Mary Washington Hospital in Fredericksburg, Virginia.