When you give birth to a premature baby, your little one hasn’t had the same time to grow and develop in the womb as a full-term baby. If your baby was born more than three weeks early, they may not progress through the same milestones as a four-week old who was born at term. Therefore, it’s important to talk with your child’s pediatrician about what you can expect for preemie development as your little one starts to grows.
Sometimes for developmental milestones, you’ll want to adjust your baby’s age to account for the time that your baby would otherwise have been growing in your stomach. For example, if your baby is 12 weeks old, yet was six weeks premature, you’ll want to adjust their age to six weeks. While babies commonly reach milestones at a variety of ages, adjusting your preemies’ age can help you gain more realistic expectations. Keep this in mind over time as you may visit websites on motor, social, and language skills that may take your baby slightly longer to develop due to prematurity.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, most premature babies “even out” in terms of milestones by the time they’re age two. At this time, premature babies often look just like every other toddler. However, if your little one doesn’t seem to be adjusting at that time, there are services that can help. Talk to your child’s pediatrician about a possible referral to early intervention services, which can provide medical care such as physical, occupational, and speech therapy. Utilizing these services when your baby is very small can help to provide your baby with the best start and may help to reduce the incidence of motor, speech, and social differences as your child ages.
Some of the changes you might expect to see with your premature baby compared to one born at term could include that a baby born eight weeks early may not sit up until they’re between six and nine months old. Because term babies typically sit up somewhere between four and seven months, this helps to account for time your baby might have spent growing and developing. While most babies will stand alone and may even start taking first steps at about 12 months of age, this timing may be different for your little one born prematurely. If you have concerns, always speak to your child’s pediatrician, yet know your little one will accomplish these in their own time.
It can be difficult for parents to reflect to the outside world about how a baby born premature is progressing. Unfortunately, many friends, family members, and even strangers may convey surprise if your 15-month old isn’t yet walking, but was born very premature. It’s important to emphasize that your little one did not get the same time to develop, but you are aware of their progress. Every baby reaches milestones according to their own unique timeline. Don’t let yourself feel bad or inadequate if this is difficult for others to understand.