Premature Babies

Babies born earlier than 37 weeks of pregnancy are considered premature. Premature babies have a higher risk for health problems and complications than full-term babies (born after 37 weeks).

While many premature babies require neonatal intensive care for breathing issues and other complications, most premature babies survive and thrive.

Ninety percent of babies who are born at 28 weeks or later survive.

    Remarkable Care for Kids

    • Level III NICU: The Renée Schine Crown Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at Rush is a level III NICU, providing the highest level of care available for premature babies. Neonatalogists are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, allowing them to care for the sickest babies immediately.
    • Immediate care for premature babies in distress: The NICU at Rush is located directly adjacent to labor and delivery. This allows a team of neonatal intensive care specialists to start caring for your baby within seconds after delivery.
    • Expert respiratory care for newborns: Respiratory therapists in the NICU at Rush help babies with breathing problems. They have all successfully completed the Neonatal Resuscitation Program and are licensed, registered therapists through the state. Many of the respiratory therapists are also neonatal/pediatric and ECMO specialists, which requires specialized training.
    • Supportive breastfeeding counseling: The Rush Mothers’ Milk Club offers new mothers breastfeeding support, lactation counseling and peer counseling. It also provides donated pasteurized breast milk, if needed.
    • Family-centered care: The NICU team at Rush believes in family-centered care. You will be deeply involved in all aspects of your baby’s care and medical decisions.

    Premature babies: what you should know

    • The earlier babies are born, the more severe their health issues are likely to be.
    • Babies born in high-tech hospitals with high-volume neonatal intensive care units (NICU), like the NICU at Rush, have the best chance of survival.
    • Premature babies often have breathing problems at birth because their lungs are not fully developed.
    • Breast milk is extremely important for premature babies. It encourages growth, improves digestion and helps fight bacteria that can lead to infection.
    • Maternal health problems can cause premature birth; however, in many other cases, the cause is unknown.
    • Prenatal care with an OB-GYN can help prevent preterm birth. Your doctor will address your health concerns and risk factors before they lead to serious complications.

    Care for premature babies at Rush

    Neonatal intensive care provides premature babies with the support and time they need to grow stronger. These are some of the treatments you’ll find in the NICU:

    • Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP): Noninvasive breathing assistance for babies who can breathe on their own but need some assistance.
    • Mechanical ventilation: Breathing assistance with a mechanical ventilator for babies who are very ill and cannot breathe on their own.
    • Extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO): Artificial heart-lung machine that provides oxygen to extremely ill babies whose heart or lungs don’t function properly.
    • Intravenous (IV) feeding: Provides nutrients to babies who cannot suck, swallow, digest breast milk or breathe normally.
    • Oral and nasal feeding: A way to feed babies through a narrow flexible tube that goes in their nose or mouth. Often used if your baby can digest breast milk but cannot suck, swallow or breathe normally.
    • Breastfeeding support: Lactation consultants at Rush offer breastfeeding education and support. They also provide hospital-grade breast pumps, which can help you produce more milk than standard pumps.
    • Skin-to-skin contact: Skin-to-skin can help improve your baby’s heart rate, breathing patterns, temperature regulation and neurodevelopment. You will have an opportunity to do skin-to-skin with your baby in the NICU at Rush.