A premature baby (or prem) is a baby born before 37 weeks gestation. In Australia, 1 in every 10 babies is born premature, with many needing time in hospital before they can go home. Often these babies face difficulties not faced by others, as they are still developing. Breathing, feeding and growth are some of the biggest challenges (and milestones) faced, though there can be many others. If you want to know all about prems and pre-term birth, I encourage you to read up. There is a lot of information available. 

The Miracle Babies Foundation and Life’s Little Treasures Foundation have some great information. These websites talk about statistics, causes and common terms used around prematurity. This is especially useful to parents who are new to a hospital stay as hospital talk can be confusing and scary.

The Miracle Babies Foundation has wonderful page about ways you can support the family during their stay in hospital and when they come home. They also talk about financial assistance available for families.

Stages of prematurity

While there is no hard and fast rule, premature babies can generally be classified as:

32-37 weeks gestation – late prem

28- 32 weeks gestation – prem

prior to 28 weeks gestation – early or micro prem

Many hospitals in Australia are set up to deal with premature babies with an Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) or Special Care Unit. Often babies who are born outside of a major metropolitan centre will need to be transferred to one of these hospitals.