Care of high risk babies

Premature babies (less than 37 weeks) and low birth weight babies (weighing less than 2,000 g) are defined as high-risk. These newborns are at higher risk for:

  • respiratory distress syndrome (where baby’s lung is immature, so baby works hard at breathing)
  • apnoea (where baby stops breathing for more than 20 seconds)
  • hyperglycaemia (high blood sugar)
  • heart, intestinal and brain conditions

The range and severity of complications increases with decreasing maturity of the newborn.

Doctors at Mother and Child Hospital understand that caring for a high-risk infant can be mentally and emotionally daunting. There is a mortality risk, but the survival rate of high-risk infants has improved significantly with better maternal health and advancement in obstetric and neonatal care. At the neonatal intensive care units, high-risk infants are treated and supported according to their medical needs. They are kept in incubators to maintain a normal body temperature.

Most of these newborns are fed nutrients through a drip in their initial weeks until they are ready to digest and absorb the milk. Breast milk is recommended for all high-risk infants. Only when they can breathe regularly, retaining their feeds and capable of maintaining body temperature, are they discharged.