What No One Told Me About Having a Preemie (Tips and My Story)

If you’ve had a preemie, or are at risk (for whatever reason) of preterm labor, then your biggest concern is what the risks are to your baby. There are a lot of well-known risks, such as respiratory distress, jaundice, infection, or retinopathy. What about risks further down the line? What preemie tips will help your situation? I am sharing my experience because I want you to know that I know the fear you’re going through and I know how much it helps to see you’re not alone.

Livvy’s Story

My daughter Livvy was 8 weeks early. She spent 3 weeks in the NICU with no major issues. I had an extremely complicated pregnancy, start to finish. When I originally went into preterm labor at 27 weeks, I did something that we are often cautioned against: I went to Dr. Google. I wanted some reassurance from people who had been through it and I wanted to know my daughter’s odds of survival and/or complications. I read for hours and hours (what else is there to do on bed rest?) Luckily, I was able to make it to 32 weeks, but I will say a lot of issues my daughter has are not things I was warned about.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that I’m not incredibly grateful every single day for my daughter. I think of what she’s overcome and what a miracle she is.

Preemies really are fighters, they have no other choiceClick To Tweet. These are just things I wish I had read about before she came. I understand the big risks, but I feel like there isn’t much out there talking about the “smaller,” yet still life changing, issues as well. Here are a few of the lingering complications she has had as a result of being premature:

Colic

There is not a lot of documentation out there regarding the link between preemies and colic. However, my daughter had colic (which we later found out was most likely sensory processing disorder (more on that below) and Ive spoken to many mothers with preemies that report the same. This article on Romper is a great resource, citing possibly causes including an underdeveloped gastrointestinal system, an underdeveloped nervous system, or the sleep problems preemies tend to struggle with.

Sensory Issues

I had never heard of sensory issues or sensory processing disorder (SPD) before my daughter’s early intervention physical therapist suspected it. My daughter was so rigid against being stretched, it was hard to work with her. While SPD is not in the DSM right now, it is a real diagnosis and can manifest in many different ways. It is on the autism spectrum and is often a struggle for children with Autism (though your child can have one and not the other. SPD Star defines it as, “Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD), exists when sensory signals are either not detected or don’t get organized into appropriate responses.”

My daughter, for example, has extremely sensitive hearing to the point that even a ceiling fan or flourescent lights distract her. She also has tactile sensitivity in her hands, which has made teaching her very hard as she won’t allow anyone to touch or guide her hands.

Sleep Problems

My daughter was (and still is) a terrible sleeper. I can count on one hand the number of times she has slept the night completely through and she is almost 2. A big reason for this is they are behind in their self-soothing skills. A pacifier may help (though I regret ever introducing one) and what really worked for us was the Baby Merlin’s Magic Sleep Suit. It’s a weighted baby sleeper that helps to bunt the Moro reflex and the weight is also soothing to the baby. This has made such an improvement in my daughter’s sleep. I’d recommend it to anyone who has sleep trouble, preemie or no.

Delayed Teething

Just like everything else, teething will be delayed to the preemie’s adjusted age. (Unless your child’s genetics lend early teething in general. Some babies are even born with teeth, though it is rare!)

ADHD

The earlier your baby is or the smaller they are, the more likely they are to develop attention deficiet gtperactivity disorder. Studies show the risk is higher (twice as high) for babies earlier than 32 weeks and/or under 3.3 pounds. Other risk factors include the mother smoking and poor eating habits. Breastfeeding as long as possible can help reduce the risk.

Motor Planning Delay (Dyspraxia)

This is another issue I had never heard of until my daughter was diagnosed with it. It is the difficulty of the cognitive function of the brain in planning out the process. The more steps go into a task, the harder it is for children with dyspraxia. For example, eating with a utensil sounds pretty simple once your child develops the motor skills. But if you break it down into steps, your child needs to:

  1. Pick up the utensil.
  2. Pick up food with the utensil.
  3. Turn the utensil the proper way. (My daughter struggles and almost always brings the spoon or fork upside down to her mouth.)
  4. Bring the utensil to their mouth.
  5. Eat the food.

These are a few issues that I wish I had been warned about when my daughter was born. It has been a learning process for sure, and many people fixate on the baby surviving. That’s only the beginning of the battle in many cases. A lot of work goes into caring for a preemie and helping him or her catch up to their peers. (Let alone thrive. I don’t know where we would be if it weren’t for early intervention. I highly recommend it if it’s available to you. It’s free!

What struggles did your premature baby have?

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