“Ask the Baby Expert” Question #7:
How are preemie milestones different from full-term babies?
I know this is really confusing for parents with preemies for many reasons. The most frustrating one is that people with healthy, full-term infants don’t realize that preemie milestones usually happen at a different pace. I know a lot of preemie parents are also frustrated because they don’t get information or guidance about milestones from their pediatricians.
Raise your hand if you are confused or concerned about when your preemie should meet certain milestones? Ah, yes. Just about everyone reading this raised their hand! Let me see if I can make this a little bit clearer than mud for you. 😉
Developmental Milestones Charts
Developmental Milestones Charts are a reference for parents to compare their child’s growth and development timeline with research-based norms (averages).
Basically, hundreds of thousands of children were studied a several decades ago to determine the “normal” age ranges in which babies achieved various developmental milestones.
When a skill like “walking” is associated with an age of “12 months”, it means that approximately 50% of the full-term babies studied mastered the art of walking independently around the time of their first birthday.
But please understand that there is also normal range of ages where the majority of full-term babies achieve a certain milestone.
So the ability to crawl on all fours independently is normally achieved between 7-12 months. The average is 9 months, but it is still within the normal range for a baby to start crawling just before his first birthday.
Now that you understand this a little better, just throw it all out the window if you have a preemie!♥
Or let’s just simplify it a little to save you a little bit of sanity as a parent of a preemie.
Preemie milestones are different. Preemies get their own developmental milestone chart.
There is a reason preemies get an “adjusted” or “corrected” age. This would be the age your baby would be if he was born on his due date.
We use the corrected age for things like tracking development, qualifications for services, and comparing our children to others. Agh!
You baby’s true age since birth is the “chronological” or “actual” age. This is your baby’s real birthday and the date is used for all other intensive purposes including qualifying for kindergarten, a driver’s license and the right to consume alcohol. Eeks!
Once a preemie turns two, we don’t really use corrected age anymore. That does not mean that your preemie will always be exactly the same as (caught up with) full-term babies when they turn two, but as a preemie gets older the difference of a couple of months isn’t that relevant anymore, relatively speaking.
So I thought I’d make my own version of a developmental milestone checklist. I designed my checklists to help parents understand how each little milestone “links” the bigger milestones together in a predictable sequence. I know that people will say “every baby develops their own way” or every “they’ll catch up eventually.” But it’s just not that simple. So print out those checklists and read the information in the first couple of pages. I hope it will give you a new perspective of how to track YOUR baby’s milestones AND be able to help them out when they’re stuck.
So those of you preemie parents that are concerned about your baby meeting his milestones, just remember these few simple rules.
1. Always adjust to your baby’s “corrected” age when tracking milestones. Example: Let’s say your baby is 9 months old and you are wondering when he should be crawling. (The average age for crawling on all fours is 9 months, with a normal range of 7-12 months). If he was born 2 months premature, he gets 2 extra months to meet this milestone, at a minimum. But…there’s more!
2. Preemies are at a much higher risk of having developmental delays, because they are born premature. All that time they missed in the womb and spent in the NICU kinda messes up their development in some ways. Generally, the earlier a baby is born, the more delays or developmental difficulties they will have even after correcting for prematurity. Example, a 9 month old baby born 2 months premature will probably start crawling before a 9 month old baby born 3 months premature. Does that make sense?
3. If you feel like your preemie is way behind, falling behind, or seems like he’s never going to catch up, then take him to physical or occupational therapy. You don’t have to prove that he is delayed to get a referral to an outpatient clinic. Just tell your doctor you want to be evaluated and don’t take no for an answer. You have nothing to lose and so much knowledge and tools and peace of mind to gain!
Read this post, too! “Understanding Developmental Delay” and you’ll feel like a preemie milestones expert!;-)
Does this post help you understand your preemie’s milestones better? What do you think about my milestones checklists? Will they help you track your preemie’s milestones without worrying about what age they are supposed to meet them? Did this post provoke more questions? Ask away!♥