20 Ways Preemie Babies Are Different

When it comes to the topics of pregnancy, giving birth, and parenting, there are a lot of things to think about, as well as some things to be prepared for in the event that something goes wrong, or at the very least, does not go according to previously made plans. For instance, expecting mothers may only plan for a healthy pregnancy, but sometimes nature has other plans, and that means something about their pregnancy will have to be altered in order to protect the health of both the unborn baby and the mother.

Furthermore, this is also true about the health of the baby once he or she is born. For example, typically, expecting parents imagine giving birth after a full-term pregnancy, resulting in a perfectly healthy child. While that is not an uncommon thing, there are times when babies will be born before they would normally be ready to make their grand entrance.

Children who are born early are referred to as premature babies. It is important that the family members of babies in this situation learn as much as they can about how to take care of a preemie baby. Here are some of the differences between babies that are born at the end of a full-term pregnancy and children that are born earlier than they should be.

20 Breastfeeding Will Be Harder

Nursing a child can come with some challenges, especially for new mothers who have never done it before. But, doing this with a premature baby will be even harder. This is because the little boy or girl might have a harder time latching on than babies who were born after a full-term pregnancy.

This can be caused by a couple of things. One of the possible reasons for a preemie baby having a hard time while nursing is that their mouths may be too small, in which case some mothers have had to pump their milk into a bottle and then feed the child that way instead.

19 Moms’ Healthcare Provider Will Give Baby An Adjusted Age

Health is not the only thing that is different when it comes to how preemie babies differ from other children. Another difference they have has something to do with their ages.

If a baby is born much earlier than he or she should be, the healthcare provider will likely give them a different age. So, technically speaking, a baby in this scenario will have two ages, one of which will be based off of the time that has passed since their date of birth, and another based off of how early their mother was in her pregnancy when they were born.

18 Milestones Will Happen Later Than Usual

Newborn baby

When it comes to normal pregnancies where children are born when they should be, the likelihood of those babies hitting milestones on or near the expected time for them to do so is fairly high. But for babies who are born premature, however, that is not the case.

This has a lot to do with the fact that preemies have adjusted ages. For example, if your baby is 4 months old, but was born a month early, he or she will be reaching achievements of 3 month old babies because they were born early.

17 Preemies Start Their Lives In The NICU

Typically, children who are born on time are not kept in the neonatal intensive care unit, which is also known as the NICU. But, in the case of babies who are born early, this is not the case. Preemie babies will spend some of their earliest days after birth in this section of the hospital.

Usually, if the child is in good health and does not need to be kept in the hospital any longer, a premature baby will be able to go home near the date they were originally supposed to be born on. But, there are some cases in which they may go home earlier (provided the state of their health is good enough to do so), while some might go home later, as they may need additional medical attention.

16 Premies Are Fed Through A Tube

A birth is considered premature if it takes place before the 37th week of gestation. Under most circumstances, babies will be born near the 40 week mark.

While full-term children can often be feed by nursing on their mother, babies who are born earlier than expected will have to be fed differently. But, this depends on when they were born. Furthermore, how they eat might also depend on a few other things, such as their health.

Preemie babies who were born earlier than the 34th week will have to be fed through a tube for a bit, and the tube will connect to the stomach either through the child’s nose or their mouth. Children born during or after the 34th week of pregnancy may only have to use the tube for a short time.

15 They Have Little To No Excess on them

One of the big differences between children who are born after a full-term pregnancy and those who arrive earlier than they are supposed to is the amount of fat their body will have. Typically, healthy children will be born within a good weight range, which is anywhere between 5.5 and 10 pounds, with the average newborn weighing in at approximately 7.5 pounds.

However, preemies are different. Because they are born earlier, they are much more likely to weigh less than those who are not. However, premature children born near the 34 week mark may be closer to a healthy weight than those born earlier.

14 They Have A Smaller Birth size

When it comes to size, the weight of a newborn child is not the only part that will be different with a premature baby and one that was born on time. The new little boy or girl will probably end up being shorter than others as well.

But, this is usually not something parents should stress over too badly. Under most circumstances, once the childs’ second age (the adjusted age) reaches the 10 week point, his or her healthcare provider will begin to use charts that are typically used on full-term babies.

13 Premies Make Less Sound


There are a lot of things about a new baby that can be scary for his or her parents. Some of these things may be nothing to worry about, but when it comes to premature children, even the little things can be a sign of something bigger and more dangerous, which can make this an even more worrisome time for their mothers and fathers.

However, one of the facts about preemies is that they do not seem to make as much sound as other children do. Furthermore, in most cases, once a preemie baby reaches the date that they were supposed to be born, he or she might become more vocal.

12 They Are More Likely To Have Health Problems

Pregnancy and birth are both very important and crucial moments for the children who are involved. This is even more true when the child in question is a premature baby.

The later part of pregnancy is meant to be a time when a lot of the child's  body develops. So, when one is born early, this can lead to immediate health issues, as well as problems that may not appear until later in the persons’ life.

There are many serious things that have been proven to be caused by premature birth. A few of these include possible dental problems, infections, and intestinal issues.

11 Sleeping Is Different

This is just one of many differences between healthy babies whose birth was at the expected time, and premature babies who arrived early. However, this is a detail that is not any less important than the others. Parents of a preemie baby boy or girl might be worried about their child's sleeping habits, but it is normal for these babies to sleep differently than others.

Premature children, in most cases, will tend to sleep a lot throughout the day. On the other hand, they are super light sleepers, so even some of the softest noises might wake them. In fact, some of them sleep so much that doctors have been known to advice the parents to wake their child up when it is time to feed them.

10 They Can Have Anemia

Babies are very dependent on their mothers throughout pregnancy. This is part of what makes preemies so likely to have health issues, because their bodies are not quite ready to be independent yet, which often leads to them having more health problems than babies who are born after a full-term pregnancy.

One of the issues that can arise from being born premature is anemia. The particular type of anemia that preemies tend to get is called anemia of prematurity, which can be very severe.

There are some signs of preterm anemia. A fast heartbeat, rapid breathing, and a heartrate that is slower than normal are a few signs of anemia being present in a preemie baby.

9 They Get Sick More Easily

It is always important to make sure a newborn stays as healthy as he or she possibly can. This is because babies are known to be more susceptible to certain illnesses than older children and adults are. But the health of premature babies is even more delicate than that.

When a preemie child is born, they are more likely to become sick. This is due to the fact that they did not spend as much time in the womb as they should have, and therefore their body has not been able to develop the way it would in most cases, which results in them having weaker immune systems than children born under better circumstances.

8 Their Eyes Aren't As Healthy

There are a lot of problems that can arise when a child is born much earlier than he or she is expected to be, and some of them are issues that are related to their childs’ eyes and his or her vision. Two of these things are called Infantile Esotropia and Retinotherapy of Prematurity, which is also known as ROP.

Infantile Esotropia is a condition that causes the baby's eyes to not line up with one another as they would under normal circumstances. ROP is a condition that has only been known to affect preemies, and it is rare but serious, as it can cause loss of vision.

7 They're At Higher Risk Of Brain Problems


Some of the health issues that premature children are likely to suffer from are short lived things that he or she can possibly outgrow. But on the other hand, there are also some lasting effects of being born early, and sometimes these things apply to the brain as well as other parts of the body.

One of the possible things a preemie can suffer from that is related to his or her brain is called Periventricular Leukomalacia. This is also known as PVL, and it is extremely common. Symptoms to look out for include tight muscles, weak muscles, and spastic muscles, as well as muscles that appear to be resistant to motion.

6 They Can Be More Expensive

Any parents or men and women hoping to be parents can agree that starting a family, as well as caring for children when you already have them, is a very expensive ordeal. However, premature babies can result in much bigger costs than full-term babies do.

A few years ago, parents were spending approximately $4,551 during the first year of their childs’ life, if he or she was born perfectly healthy. On the other hand, parents children who were born at the right time but had health issues would spend a bit more than that in order to make sure their childs’ needs were taken care of.

But preemies are even more expensive than that. The first year in the life of a child who was born early costs over double the amount of money spent on those born after full-term pregnancies. This is likely due to their lengthy stays in the NICU, as well as products the parents have to use to ensure they have the best care they can possibly have.

5 Make Sure Your Pediatrician Has Experience With Premies

One thing that is certain when it comes to babies and their first year of life is that they will have a lot of appointments with their pediatrician. This is true for all babies, whether or not they are born premature.

Often, parents choose the child’s doctor long before he or she is born. But sometimes, especially in the case of a preemie baby, mothers and fathers may decide to find another doctor, as the one they had previously chosen may not fit the needs of them or the baby.

Many mothers do not expect to give birth early, so this may or may not be something they think about when they begin to search for the best doctor for their child. But, seeing as how preemies have many special needs that other babies do not, it is important that parents find a pediatrician they can trust, as well as one that works well with premature children.

4 They Will Be Delivered Earlier

In most cases, expecting mothers will give birth to a full-term baby girl or boy at the end of their pregnancy. Typically, these babies are born anywhere between the 37th and 40th week of gestation. However, that is not the case for all babies. Some are born later, and they are often referred to as overdue babies, while premature babies are born early.

Furthermore, there are stages for children born early. These are late preterm, very preterm, and extremely preterm. What determines which of those categories a preemie baby falls into is when, during their mothers pregnancy, he or she is born.

Early preterm is when a child is born 28 weeks before their original due date. Very preterm means the child was born before the 32nd week of pregnancy, and late preterm births take place between the 34th and 37th week of gestation.

3 They May Have A Delay In Motor Skills

Premature birth in the United States of America is a fairly common occurrence. Nearly half of the children born in America are preemie babies.

One of the biggest differences between preemies and full-term babies is the fact that preemies are slightly more likely to have problems with their fine motor skills. The earlier a child is born, the more likely he or she is to suffer from issues related to their motor skills.

Sometimes, though, this just means it will take time for them to catch up to their peers. If a 4-month-old preemie was born two months early, their motor skills will likely be in sync with a child that is 2 months old.

2 Their Muscles Will Be Under-Developed

Babies who are born after a full-term pregnancy will, in most cases, have more developed muscles than a preemie child. This is because a preemie spends less time in the womb, and therefore their muscles do not get the time they need to grow and develop as they are supposed to.

A child born under normal circumstances will be have a balanced muscle tone. Preemie babies are likely to have limbs that appear to be more stretched and relaxed than that of other babies. On the other hand, the muscles of full-term babies might look more bent and appear to be closer to their torso.

1 Breathing Is Harder

There are numerous issues premature babies often face, and some of them may go away in time, while others might stick around awhile longer. One of the many issues preemies are likely to have is problems being able to breath normally. But, this can also occur with full-term babies if they become sick somehow, suffer complications during birth, or have birth defects.

Preemies are very likely to have breathing issues due to the fact that they have lungs that are not finished developing. Treatment options include both a ventilator and medication. In fact, some preemies receive both treatments.

References: Scary Mommy, Circle of Moms, Baby Centre, Healthy Children, Very Well Family, Live Strong, March of Dimes, WebMD, Health Line, CNN, News Moms Need,

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