At thirty-two weeks of pregnancy, your baby will be around the size of a pineapple. She will have just about grown tiny fingernails and toenails. Your baby won’t be considered full-term for another five weeks at least. She won’t be ready for life outside the womb for another seven.
On August 30, 2015, Kyle and Elizabeth Phillips’ first child, Penelope, was delivered unexpectedly, seven weeks ahead of schedule.
“As new parents, you read up on everything, what to do with a baby,” said Elizabeth. “But you don’t read up on what to do when you have a premature baby!”
Being born before term is a rare occurrence, and can be very dangerous for the baby. Some preterm babies have problems breathing, and they are at greater risk for brain hemorrhage. They are also more prone to infection and jaundice. Feeding can be a problem too, as the action of suckling can be exhausting.
Which is why care for preterm babies needs to be as fast, efficient and complete as possible to give babies like Penelope the best chance in life.
Instead of being moved into the traditional neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), Penelope was cared for in the suite where she was delivered, keeping the Phillips family together in one place.
At Wheaton Franciscan Healthcare, Iowa, where Penelope was born, the Phillips benefitted from their integrated NICU, or INICU, that included a system of warmers and incubators allowing mother and baby to stay together in the Family Birth Center.
Closeness and physical contact between mother and baby, especially at such a crucial time, is very important. As well as lowering stress and helping forge the mother-child bond as early as possible, it is essential for bolstering the baby’s immune system.
“The last thing you would want is to have her taken away,” added Elizabeth. “So it was nice to hear that after she was born, she would be right in the room with us.”
Watch the video above to see baby Penelope’s story, and learn about what NICUs can do to give our early arrivals the warmest welcome.