Keep Your Premature Babies Warm

One of the biggest challenges for premature babies is keeping warm.

The reason premature babies have trouble keeping themselves warm is that during the last few weeks in the uterus, babies grow a layer of body fat that helps maintain body temperature outside the womb. Keeping the body temperature warm is essential, because it helps to fight off infection and allows a preemie to use energy for development. A baby who isn't warm enough will shiver, which uses lots of energy, and can deplete a baby's energy and lower metabolism. Preemies also have underdeveloped immune systems, so a low body temperature may make it easier for some infections to thrive.

How to Keep Preemies Warm
Keeping premature babies warm is one of the main tasks of the neonatal intensive care unit. During the first days or weeks after birth, preemies will be in an incubator or radiant warmer. A radiant warmer is open to the air and has no cover, which makes it easier for medical staff to access the baby frequently. An incubator is enclosed in clear plastic to hold the warmth inside. Swaddling a premature baby in blankets is not enough during the early stages, and so these warmer environments, similar to womb temperature, are vital.

Once your premature infant is well enough to come home, swaddling and wrapping in blankets in a warm home environment, avoiding taking the baby outside and keeping the baby in close contact to the mother or father's skin is very important. Skin-to-skin contact can also assist in brain development as the comforting feeling is very soothing and studies have shown that the brain responds to love and care.

Expect to turn your thermostat up for the first few weeks after your preemie gets home, perhaps to a temperature that you find uncomfortable. While this may be inconvenient, it's essential that your preemie stays warm wherever she happens to be in the house, particularly when she's sleeping or when you're washing her. Swaddling and space heaters won't do the trick; you need to keep the general air temperature warm enough until your baby can regulate body temperature on her own.

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