A Preemie Child
|By: Allison Martin|
|Preemie-child is a email support listserv for parents of children who were born prematurely and are now 4 years or older. Children who are born very prematurely may continue to have disabilities and/or special needs which require attention as they enter school and society. The mailing list brings together this small (but growing) group of families for support as we learn from each other's experiences.|
Issue: Will they ever grow?
When you first look into the isolette at your tiny child or wrap your baby with miniature premie diapers, it is hard to believe that they will ever be bigger. Joyce, a mother of premature twins describes, "I was afraid they'd be abnormally small and remain the funny -looking little trolls they were when they were born at 25 weeks. I really didn't believe they'd ever be "normal" looking."
It isnt possible to answer this question for each individual child, because there is so much variability among children and among factors effecting preemies growth and development. But there are some general rules which will provide some clues for your unique child.
First of all, eventual size is determined to a large extent by genetics. If you and your partner are tall, your baby is most likely to be predisposed to be tall also. And vice versa for those (like myself) who are shorter in stature.
In addition, food intake as babies and children grow is also a factor. This issue begins in the NICU. As many parents who have preemie babies, toddlers and preschoolers know - feeding can also be quite an issue for growing preemies. But there is some good news.
Many preemie babies and toddlers actually grow faster than average and seem to "catch up" with children who were born at normal development. "85% of premature infants have catch-up growth and land on the regular growth chart by two years of age," according to Dr. Raye-Ann deRegnier of Children's Hospital of St. Paul and the University of Minnesota.
Some children may not catch up during this period because of developmental issues, residual illnesses or susceptibility to infections or other ailments. However, there is apparently a second "catch up" phase around adolescence. A new article in the Journal of Pediatrics (June, 1998) describing adolescent growth of 32 extremely premature children states that "45% of all the children grew faster than normal between 8 years and 12-18 years".
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