Developmental Check Ups
Most premature babies “catch up” to their peers, developmentally, within two to three years. After this time, any differences in size or development are most likely due to individual differences, rather than relating to premature birth. Some very small babies may take longer to catch up.
Premature infants who have spent a lot of time in NICU or SCN will often be involved in an early developmental check-up to evaluate their progress. Infants born preterm are at increased risk of developing cognitive and motor impairments compared with infants born at term. Cognitive development refers to thinking and learning ability, and motor development refers to the way children move, such as sitting, crawling and walking. The goal is to determine your child’s strengths and any areas that can be improved. Depending on your child’s needs, the evaluation may include health care providers in one or more of these fields:
- Social work
- Speech and language
- Physical therapy
- Occupational therapy
It will normally begin with measurements of your baby’s length, weight and head circumference. The measurements will be plotted on a growth chart.
Prematurity may cause problems with your baby’s eyes and ears. The eyes of premature infants are especially vulnerable to injury after birth. A serious complication is retinopathy of prematurity (ROP), which is abnormal growth of the blood vessels in an infant’s eye. About 7% of babies weighing 1,250 grams (2.75 pounds) or less at birth develop ROP, and the resulting damage may range from mild (the need for glasses) to severe (blindness). Your baby must be able to see and hear well so he can learn to do things correctly, such as speaking and walking
Your baby’s motor skills and development are important, too. Depending on your baby’s age, be prepared to answer questions like these:
- How well does your baby control his or her head?
- Does your baby imitate your facial expressions and sounds?
- Does your baby reach for objects or put them into his or her mouth?
- Does your baby attempt to roll over?
- Can your baby sit with support?
- Does your baby pull up into a standing position?
- Does your baby use individual fingers to pick up small objects?
- How active is your baby?
- Are you including tummy time in your baby’s activities?
- How is your baby’s temperament?
If you have any questions or concerns about your baby’s development, check with your health care professional.
The subject matter provided in these articles is strictly for informational purposes alone and should never be used in the place of a doctor’s advice. Please ALWAYS contact your doctor if you ever have questions or need advice in any area where medical advice is needed or medication is suggested.