In humans, the average pregnancy last 40 weeks. The baby’s due date is a guestimate based on the date of mom’s last menstrual cycle. A full term baby is a baby born between 38 and 42 weeks gestation. The late pre-term baby, are babies that are born between 35 and 36.6 weeks gestation. And before 35 weeks is considered pre-term.
During development in the mother’s womb, the baby’s ability to eat, that is coordinate a suck, swallow and breath pattern, and keep their temperature, blood sugar and breathing stable gets better the longer baby stays inside mom.
Preterm babies will most often go to the NICU for support and care after birth.
The late pre-term babies if stable can often stay rooming in with mom on our Mother Baby unit, but the staff considers them “the great pretenders”. They look like tiny versions of a full termer but that have very significant differences.
It’s important to remember these younger babies:
- Don’t have the layer of brown fat that develops in the last weeks of pregnancy so they have to work harder to stay warm and keep their blood sugar in normal levels.
- They have weaker suck muscles and get tired very easily feeding, falling asleep before they’ve eaten enough. Frequently, the late pre-term baby will require a supplement to breastfeeding, either expressed breast milk or formula, until mom is able to express enough of her own milk to provide enough calories for this younger baby.
Parents should take special care if they have a late pre-term baby:
- Keeping baby skin to skin as much as possible, against her parents chest is the perfect place for baby.
- Keep stimulation to a minimum. Low lights and low noise. Sorry grandma, you’ll have to wait a bit longer to hold the baby!
- Keep baby warm and feed the baby on demand, but no longer than three hours between feedings.
- Follow up with your pediatrician within 2 days of leaving the hospital.