Sleep Training a Preemie

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By Aseel Salhab, Infant and Child Sleep Consultant

A premature baby can be sleep-trained like any other baby. But when sleep training this baby, there are some points which need to be considered such as the baby’s weight, growth as well as your premature baby’s corrected age. For example, if the baby is 12 months old and was born 3 months early, then the baby would have a corrected age of 9 months.

These factors are very important when planning a routine or a schedule for a premature baby because every baby is unique when it comes to naps, bed and feeding. When putting all these aspects together, you can easily schedule a routine for a premature baby to help the baby sleep through the night and help the baby learn how to self-soothe between sleep cycles. Babies can self-soothe when they can fall back to sleep on their own.

Sleeping through the night
Some premature babies might not be able to sleep through the night until their corrected age matches their milestones for sleeping through the night. But we can help the baby to do that by establishing a routine for nap and night time sleeping.

Establishing this routine will help us know the sleeping signs or cues of the baby, which, as a result, will help to overcome the state of making the baby overtired, which, in turn, will make it harder for the baby to fall asleep. Finding this routine might need some trial and error, but with consistency and patience, parents will find the better routine for them and the baby!

Your baby will learn what to expect in a routine, and the predictability will help in learning how to self-soothe. As I always say, babies adjust quickly to any routine or system we implement and as parents, we need to be PATIENT AND CONSISTENT.

The routine you can follow can be for
Bath time
Story time
Low lighting
Soft music
Hugs and kisses before putting baby to bed

Safe sleep recommendations
Because the baby is still premature and might not be able to move or self-soothe without external help, Please avoid the following:
1. Using wedges or positioners
2. Using incline sleepers
3. Placing the baby on her back when sleeping
4. Sleeping on couches or chairs
5. Allowing the baby to sleep on a soft surface
6. Overheating
7. Using devices to make the baby fall sleep like an iPad

When can a premature baby leave the hospital?
A premature baby can leave the hospital when the baby
Weighs at least 2.2 kilos
Can stay warm without the help of an incubator
Can breastfeed or bottle-feed
Gains weight steadily
Can breathe naturally without any assistance

Terms used to describe prematurity
Late preterm: The baby is born between 34 and 36 weeks of pregnancy
Moderately preterm: The baby is born between 32 and 34 weeks of pregnancy
Very preterm: The baby is born at less than 32 weeks of pregnancy
Extremely preterm: The baby is born before 28 weeks of pregnancy

You can contact Aseel Salhab at