To learn more about the return home, read Returning Home with the Baby.
Updated article : October, 2023.
When parents have a premature baby, they will be monitored by a medical team after leaving the hospital to monitor the baby’s development over time regularly.
Parents will immediately be told to avoid comparing their baby’s to others that are born at term. The baby, especially if born very prematurely, will have growth delays as their chronological age does not correspond with their biological age regarding motor skills, comprehension, language and relationship skills.
The chronological age corresponds to the number of days, weeks, months and years since their birth. If they were born August 1st, a year later they will be one year old.
For a baby born very prematurely, the biological age corresponds to their maturity and development, which does not equal their chronological age. They were born too early. This is their corrected age.
Until the baby reaches 2 years of age, health professionals will function based on the child’s corrected age to monitor their development. A baby born prematurely may never catch up with the delays accumulated during this time. Even if we admit that it general a term baby will walk around 1 year old, a premature baby will take longer if they are born 12 weeks before term. It’s important to know that, for all babies, stunted growth cannot be made up if bone age is completed.
They will examine their skills and competencies based on their corrected age up to 24 months. If the baby only walks at 14 months, this will be considered normal. At two years of age, the baby should have caught up. At this point, only the chronological age will be used to evaluate their growth and development over time.
Vaccinations will be given based on their chronological age, and the introduction of solid foods based on their biological age, which means later than a term baby, to make sure they are mature enough to digest food. A premature baby will be closely monitored for growth and development, but it’s important to understand that staturo-ponderal delays can be linked to other causes such as: a familial, constitutional, genetic, organic or metabolic tendency.
As you can see, prematurity is wide and vast. I have talked about a few elements that I find relevant to share, but there is much more information out there. But I hope I have helped you better understand prematurity. We never want babies to be born before term, but if it happens, make sure you are supported or support those facing this situation.
Please watch the video I filmed with Dr. Véronique G. Dorval, neonatologist and director of the neonatal clinic at CHU Sainte-Justine.
The Baby Expert