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Preterm Kids Have Similar Temperament To Kids Who Were Institutionally Deprived

Premature babies are fragile in so many ways. They face health challenges at birth, and while medical care has improved to the point where more babies are able to survive an early birth, some might live with issues such as vision problems, asthma or other medical ailments for the rest of their lives.

Unfortunately, researchers have discovered another problem that faces preemies once they are older. The research, headed by scientists at the University of Warwick, found that preemies face the same kind of challenges later in life that kids who were deprived of caregivers in their formative years have to deal with.

Those kids who spent time in orphanages without a loving caregiver often deal with impulsivity issues and behavioral problems, and that can happen for preemies as well.

The study didn't speculate on this, but we wonder if it has to do with the fact that a preemie often needs a lot of time in an incubator, so they don't get held by their moms as much in those first few weeks or months of life.

preemie baby
Credit: Society for Women's Health Research

Hospitals have made a point to try to allow babies in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit to have skin-to-skin bonding time with their parents as soon as they are able. But that can take time, especially for the earliest babies who struggle with breathing.

It's so hard for families to watch their preemie struggle to breathe and eat and grow. All that moms and dads want to do is snuggle their little one, so it might hurt to hear that the baby might suffer from that deprivation.

But all parents can do is advocate for their little one and make sure that doctors and nurses aren't just thinking about the baby's physical worries but also their need to be loved on by mom and dad.

The researchers agree that the findings are a sad side effect, but mostly they want people to use the information to plan ahead for care later in life. Kids with impulse control issues can benefit from therapy and other interventions, so preemie moms might be able to get their little one the help they need even earlier if they are watching out for this potential a few years after preemie comes home from the NICU.

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