A baby born three to six weeks early is called a "late preterm" or "near-term" infant. The Association of Women's Health, Obstetric and Neonatal Nurses (AWHONN) is providing parents with information on the special needs of these babies and the potentially serious health problems that they may face. "Late Preterm Infants: What Parents Need to Know," a free patient education brochure, is available in English and Spanish on the Web screen describing AWHONN's Late Preterm Infant Initiative. Scroll down to Patient Links. The brochure informs parents about breathing, temperature control, feeding, sleeping, jaundice and infections. It also provides questions to ask the baby's health care provider before leaving the hospital.
Chronological age is the age of a baby from the day of birth. Adjusted age is the age of the baby based on his due date. To calculate adjusted age, take your baby's chronological age (for example, 20 weeks) and subtract the number of weeks premature the baby was (6 weeks). This baby's adjusted age (20 - 6) is 14 weeks. Health care providers may use this age when they evaluate the baby's growth and development. Most premature babies catch up to their peers developmentally in 2 to 3 years. After that, differences in size or development are most likely due to individual differences, rather than to premature birth. Some very small babies take longer to catch up.
Late preterm means that a baby is born after 34 weeks but before 37 weeks of pregnancy. It's important to try to have your baby as close to 39 weeks of pregnancy as possible. In the last few weeks of pregnancy, your baby's organs, like his brains, lungs and liver, are still growing. Waiting until you're at least 39 weeks also gives your baby time to gain more weight and makes him less likely to have vision and hearing problems after birth. Your baby will also be better able to suck and swallow and stay awake long enough to eat after he's born. Babies born early sometimes can't do these things.