The first few months aren’t easy for parents of preterm babies.
When babies are born before 37 weeks gestation, they face a number of challenges before they even leave the hospital. Respiratory issues are common, so doctors often monitor preterm births for weeks, and while many premature babies grow up without any lasting health effects, their parents face an emotionally draining experience. The challenges don’t end when the baby comes home. Premature babies are typically very small, and finding appropriate products for infant care can be difficult. Fortunately, several companies are trying to change that.
Recently, Huggies introduced a line of extra-small diapers designed for preemies.
Called the “Huggies Little Snugglers Nano Preemie Diapers,” they’re specially designed for newborns weighing two pounds or less. The new diapers are part of a program called No Baby Unhugged, and they feature a special design with an extra-soft liner to protect premature babies’ sensitive skin from irritation. However, the program doesn’t stop there.
No Baby Unhugged also provides grants for volunteers at hospitals across Canada.
The name is literal; volunteers hold and hug babies shortly after birth, giving them a human touch when their moms can’t be there. Human touch is incredibly important for infants and can even affect development. Scientists believe that this is because touch (especially hugs) calm babies, allowing them to sleep and fostering brain development. While some hospitals have made efforts to create artificial machines to comfort babies in the same manner, no technology seems to compare to the touch of an actual human. This may be especially important for premature babies, since they’re more likely to encounter medical issues shortly after birth.
The Huggies program recognizes some of the challenges that premature babies face.
Of course, the new diapers also address the needs of a large audience. In the United States alone, about 15 million premature babies are born every year, according to data from the World Health Organization. But Huggies isn’t the only company offering innovative products for preterm births.
One of Huggies’ competitors introduced a similar product in late 2016.
Pampers’ Swaddlers Preemie diapers are a size P-3, small enough for babies weighing only one pound. That product also packs in a number of advanced features, some of which are fairly groundbreaking. The brand claims to have invested in 10,000 hours of research, which resulted in a “narrow core” design that helps with sleeping and positioning. The idea is to allow the baby’s hips to rest naturally, rather than forcing them apart, as is common with larger diapers. The Huggies design also includes an umbilical cord cutout, which allows the baby’s belly button to heal, and an absorbent liner.
The diapers are marketed directly to hospitals, and much of the marketing language targets nurses.
They’re potentially beneficial for positioning babies during routine medical care, according to both Huggies and Pampers. However, the diapers are also available commercially; at time of writing, a 30-pack of Huggies Little Snugglers Preemie diapers retailed for about $7. For preemie parents, there’s more good news: these aren’t the only products created especially for this very special market.
In recent years, several companies have introduced car seats made specifically for preemies.
High-end preemie car seats can range up to $300, but there are plenty of perfectly functional models available for under $100. Most rear-facing infant seats are designed for 5 pounds and up, and this creates significant issues, since the hip straps are often too wide apart to accommodate premature babies’ smaller bodies. Preemie car seats feature smaller straps, and they’re designed for babies that weigh less than 5 pounds.
No matter what size your baby is, car seat straps should sit at or just below your infant’s shoulders when they are rear-facing.
A preterm infant will be smaller than average, so most car seats provide inadequate protection. They can also be uncomfortable. These preemie-only car seats also feature low bottom harness slots to comfortably accommodate the newborn’s body. Because they’re designed for infants with extremely low birth weights, these car seats are safer and more comfortable than more traditional models. What better way to drive your little miracle home from the hospital?
Every parent of a preterm infant has heard about kangaroo care.
It’s the practice of maintaining skin-to-skin contact with your baby, as constantly as possible. Some moms even figure out ways to keep their babies snuggled against their skin 24 hours a day! Obviously, that wouldn’t be possible without some sort of device that straps your baby to your chest. Enter the Boba Baby Wrap.
This stretchy length of soft fabric binds a preterm infant tightly to the caregiver’s body.
It’s thin enough to provide a feather-light touch, but tough enough to keep babies tightly bound to their adult caregivers. The warmth and tightness of the wrap and the caregiver’s body reminds infants of their time in the womb, providing them with a sense of safety and security that will help them meet all their developmental milestones. Meanwhile, moms and dads can go about their days. This wrap is totally hands-free. It even helps to keep the infant’s head and neck in a safe, comfortable position.
Of course, most of us simply can’t maintain kangaroo care 24/7.
For those moments when you have to put your baby down, only one thing can keep them feeling safe and warm. Swaddling blankets wrap a baby tightly, giving them a sense of womb-like comfort. For preemies, you need the softest, most gentle swaddling blanket available. A company called Halo makes a micro-fleece swaddle just for low-birth-weight infants. It’s called the SleepSack.
As your baby grows, you’ll want to upgrade your swaddling blanket.
These products are available in a variety of sizes to fit your baby like a glove. If you can’t hold your infant against your own skin, a swaddling blanket is the next best thing. Hospitals even use the SleepSack to help teach new parents about safe sleep for their infants. The words “back is best” appear on the SleepSack, reminding parents that infants should sleep on their backs.
When you give birth to a preemie, you can’t just use any old bottle nipple.
Preterm babies have much smaller mouths than your typical newborn. Choose a baby bottle nipple that’s designed for an infant with low birth weight. These are softer, smaller, and easier to pull on than other designs. Preemie nipples also let less air into your hungry baby’s stomach. That helps to prevent gas and acid reflux, which are woefully common among preterm babies.
No matter what sort of bottles and nipples you get, make sure they’re all free of the chemical bisphenol A, usually known as BPA.
For years, manufacturers used BPA in plastic products like baby bottles. When studies showed a link between BPA and certain problems in the endocrine system, though, many manufacturers discontinued use of the chemical. Preterm babies are more susceptible to health problems than their full-term peers. Don’t take chances with BPA-laden bottles or nipples.
When it’s time to give your preemie a bath, not just any bath tub will do.
You need a tub that’s soft enough to avoid irritating your baby’s delicate skin. Easy clean-up sure doesn’t hurt, either. That’s why a company called Puj created the Puj Tub. This portable baby bath is made out of a soft, water-proof foam. It fits into just about any sink you can find. It even gently hugs baby’s body, keeping them warm and comfortable at bath time.
When the bath is over, simply dump the bathwater down the sink and hang your Puj Tub up to dry.
It never grows mold or mildew, and its flat-hanging design means you can store it just about anywhere. Many parents of preterm infants are worried that the market doesn’t have anything for them. As we’ve learned, though, from diapers to bathtubs, today’s preemie industry is booming. These products should help your child catch up with the peers!