How Long Should a Premature Baby Stay in the Hospital?

08 July, 2020
Preterm birth often causes parents a lot of stress and questions. The newborn must spend some time in the hospital until they’re in good health. But do you know what influences the hospital stay of a premature baby? Discover it here!

Parents usually have many doubts regarding preterm birth. For example, how long should a premature baby stay in the hospital? Although every baby is different and requires a personalized diagnosis, there are some general guidelines.

In this article, we’ll talk about preterm birth and how long should a premature baby stay in the hospital. This information will help clarify some doubts for parents who experience this stage with fear and uncertainty.

Preterm birth

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), “preterm” is defined as babies born alive before 37 weeks of pregnancy are completed. It can have adverse consequences for the baby’s health in the short and long term, as it has a high risk of neonatal mortality.

Here are some of the factors associated with preterm birth:

  • Anemia
  • High catecholamine levels in maternal urine
  • Tobacco use
  • Preterm ruptures of membranes (PRM)
  • Arterial hypertension (AHT)
  • Vaginal bleeding
  • Urinary tract infections
  • Lack of prenatal or inadequate care
  • If the mother is under 20 or over 35 years of age
  • Low amniotic fluid levels (oligohydramnios)
  • History of induced abortion
  • Preeclampsia
  • Twin pregnancy

You should also read: Gastroschisis in Newborns: A Dangerous Birth Defect

Premature baby care in the hospital

A mother looking at her newborn.
After preterm labor, the stay in the hospital incubator will allow the newborn to complete their development.

Medical care is essential for the premature baby’s health and survival, as different statistics on each country’s resources show. But what care is needed?

  • First, immediate breastfeeding and feeding support.
  • Incubator maintenance to ensure thermal balance and minimize the risk of infection.
  • Also, hygienic care of the baby’s umbilical cord and skin.
  • Respiratory assistance or resuscitation, if necessary.
  • Finally, immediate treatment in case of complications (infections, jaundice, etc.).

Furthermore, nowadays, thanks to medical advances, different techniques facilitate the bond between parents and newborns. Among them, the Kangaroo Mother Care stands out, which we’ll detail below.

Kangaroo Mother Care

Kangaroo Mother Care is a technique for premature newborns that’s based on skin-to-skin contact with the mother and everything she can provide: feeding (exclusive breastfeeding whenever possible), stimulation, and protection. The father or another adult can also do it.

With this technique, despite being in the hospital, medical professionals can achieve a much more humanized and natural treatment of a premature baby. Their needs for temperature, food, and protection are covered, as well as affective needs (security and love). At the same time, parents establish an emotional bond with their baby.

Kangaroo Mother Care can help shorten the hospital stay. In fact, parents can maintain this technique at home upon discharge, depending on the baby’s progress, but almost always with an outpatient follow-up for as long as necessary.

You should also read: Is it True that Breastfeeding Helps You Lose Weight?

How long should a premature baby stay in the hospital?

A baby in an incubator.
Some of the factors medical professionals consider for discharge are the baby’s temperature and weight.

First of all, it should be noted that, for the parents, the time they spend in the hospital may feel like an eternity, no matter how short! After the initial shock of preterm delivery, the difficulties of their day-to-day and impatience build up. However, they must understand that the hospital is the best place for their baby at this stage.

Many factors will determine how long a premature baby stays in the hospital. Among them, their ability to breathe and eat, their temperature, and the evolution of their weight. In this regard, four pounds is a standard weight reference that the newborn has to reach to be discharged. Most babies reach this milestone at two to four weeks.

In short, for a premature baby to be able to go home, they:

  • Must manage to maintain a stable temperature without an incubator for one or two days.
  • Need to be able to feed without tubes, either through breastfeeding or bottle feeding.
  • Need to gain weight regularly until they reach four pounds.

Now you know a little more about preterm birth and the care a premature baby requires. Nevertheless, remember that each baby is unique and their evolution will depend on many factors. Thus, the important thing is for them to have all the assistance they need at all times, both physically and emotionally.