Why does my baby need special care?

There are many different reasons why babies should be admitted in intensive care unit, but the most common cause is premature birth.

Nature has provided for 40 weeks, during which the baby to develop, feed and grow in the womb. Earlier born babies are too small and their bodies are too immature to survive independently without being subjected to special care. The reasons for this are, that babies are often born with very low weight, almost no subcutaneous fat, which is why their thermoregulation is extremely immature and they alone can not maintain normal body temperature. Often, the lungs are unfolded, so that premature babies can not breathe on their own and require additional oxygen supply. Premature babies do not yet have sucking and swallowing reflex, which requires them to be fed parenterally – via injecting of nutrients in the form of solutions directly into the blood.

Sometimes, even full-term infants need to spend some time in the intensive care unit of the neonatal wards. This handbook is aimed primarily at premature babies, but it can help you even if your baby was born full-term, but is in hospital because of a serious illness or medical condition.

Защо бебето ми има нужда от специални грижи
Many babies born at term, who require special care or need surgery, will spend some time in the intensive care sector. The main reasons are:


Some babies need phototherapy (light therapy) for jaundice. It is usual even in otherwise healthy infants.

Breathing problems (Respiratory Distress Syndrome)

This condition most commonly affects premature babies, but can also affect full-term infants. For example, maternal diabetes during pregnancy and birth by cesarean section are two risk factors associated with respiratory distress syndrome.

Problems diagnosed with ultrasound during pregnancy

Sometimes ultrasound examinations during pregnancy show physical problems that are treatable with surgery only after the baby has been born. Such examples are the incomplete development of the esophagus and the trachea.

Questions that you may ask:

  1. Why was my baby born so early?
  2. How serious is the condition of my baby?
  3. What tests and treatments does my baby need?
  4. Should the baby be transported to a specialized hospital for treatment, surgery or intensive care?
  5. How soon will my baby feel better?
  6. Will my baby need intensive care after the date of the term?
  7. What outcome can I expect for my baby?
  8. When will my baby come home?

Our baby is not such we expected?!

Many parents say they are ambivalent in their first meeting with their child. Depending on how early your baby is born, as well as on how serious its condition is, you are likely to be shocked when you see it for the first time. Premature babies are usually quite tiny and with almost no subcutaneous fat. They look much different than most full-term babies who you might have seen. This is due to the fact that your baby is in a different phase of its development as it is born early. The difference comes from the fact that you see your baby in a phase of development, during which, in normal circumstances, it should still be in your womb.

What does the premature baby look like?

Some premature babies are so tiny that they can fit in your palm, and their hands and feet can pass through a wedding ring. Many premature babies are covered with fine hair called lanugo. This hair is normal. It is stimulated by maternal hormones while a baby is in the womb. It will disappear soon.

Как изглежда недоносеното бебе

At the beginning, the skin of your baby may look like wax. Probably it is also transparent, as the baby has almost no subcutaneous fat. Therefore, it is possible to see the fine network of its blood vessels. Due to the lack of fat tissue, which has the function of maintaining the heat, these infants are unable to maintain their body temperature.

Cheek bones and bones of the head of premature babies are very soft. The ears are sometimes flat, curved or sagging, since the cartilage, which gives them their form, is not yet formed.
It is possible that the head of your baby could be deformed if standing too long on a flat surface in the incubator. The team that takes care of your baby changes the position of his body and puts it in the correct position to avoid such deformity. The moment your baby is mature enough to go home, these bones are strengthened and thus will be healthier and with greater firmness. Foundation "Our premature children" has provided some neonatal intensive care units (NICUs) in the country with anatomical seats for premature infants. They can prevent such deformity, and many other adverse effects from the long stay in an incubator.

Sexual characteristics usually are not fully developed –it is possible that the testicles have not descended, there might be a lack of areola around the nipples, etc. It is also possible, that many normal reflexes (grasping, sucking, swallowing, etc.) are still missing, since the development of muscles and the nervous system is not complete. Usually, premature babies do not cry at all or do that very little at the beginning..

Nevertheless, all this is temporary. When your baby reaches the date of the eventual birth term, it would probably look almost like term newborns with similar to its weight.


She was so fine, so incredibly tiny ... I could not hold her properly in the first two weeks. I was shocked when I saw her for the first time,. I could not believe it was possible for a baby to look that way. It both frightened me and made me feel sweet. I remember well, that the first time they let me hold her, I was overwhelmed with amazing sensations. I had the feeling that she was made of porcelain and will break any moment. It was amazing when I held her properly for the first time. I thought it was impossible ever to deal with it.

L.M., mother of Laura, who was born at week 26

Welcome to  "All About Premature Babies" website.
This is a project of "Our premature babies" Foundation based in Bulgaria. The book is a result of a team’s hardwork that includes doctors, psychologists, breastfeeding consultants and premature babies parents. The common information about premature babies which you can find here will help you understand better the situation you've been facing.
Please keep in mind that some of the information related to the neonatal intensive care units is prevalent only in Bulgaria.

We hope that this website and the book are going to help you to be more informed, calm and confident. We wish you and your baby best of luck and health.

Our Premature Children Foundation. © 2015. All rights reserved. The content in this website is subject of copyright. Publishing, copying and using content from this website is permitted only with mandatory reference to the source!