Physiotherapy for Premature Babies
Premature or preterm birth is considered to be a birth before 37 weeks. The smaller the gestation (the week they were delivered) and the birthweight, the greater the risks that are associated with that birth. When a child is born early their brains and body have had less opportunity for protected development and this fragility puts them at risk of developmental issues.
High risk infants: those under 1500g and under 32weeks are 50% more likely to have developmental delays/problems and warrants close follow up from a good paediatrician and appropriate assessment time points to flag areas of difficulties.
Assessments can be completed by a physiotherapist, occupational therapist and/ or a psychologist. Within our Klint Kids connections and team we have set up assessment points to identify issues early.
We complete assessments at 1y, 2y and 5y screen for the issues below.
Areas of development to be monitored include
Physical development- reaching milestones and looking at the quality and coordination of movement
Speech and language development- feeding, talking and understanding
Sensory sensitivity- Some premature babies are sensory to light, noises and certain textures/ materials. Some babies do not like putting things into their mouths and can have trouble feeding and become overwhelmed
Social and emotion development- Some babies have difficulties self – regulating and managing their emotions. They can find it hard to keep calm and can experience lower self-esteem and find it difficult to established friendships.
Learning development- Some premature babies have thinking and learning difficulties. This may present as difficulties with reading, planning and focus. These difficulties will be more evident when the child starts school.
Paediatric physiotherapists can take a lead role in early development and notice the first signs of delay. This is because premature babies can be smaller/weaker and be slower to get moving. Even though premature babies are little they still need the same exposure and challenge as their peers to promote their development. Our physiotherapists have a good understanding in baby development, can analyse the quality of movement and understand the skill sets that a required to achieve a milestone. Our physiotherapist aims to support the development of babies who are born prematurely and are at risk of movement or developmental problems.
During the first year of your baby’s life, our physiotherapist can assess the baby’s movements, in particular:
– Head control within the first 3 months after their due date
– Floor mobility such as rolling around 3-4 months after their due date
– Sitting developing around 6-8 months after their due date
– Standing and walking around 12-18 months after their due date
Our skilled physiotherapists can also perform comprehensive assessments to review other areas of their development, such as cognition, fine motor, speech and language and social development.
It is important to know and correct the babies age to allow time for the baby’s brain and body to develop.
Please get in contact if you need advice or a global assessment for your premature child.