Hypothermia or the “Inability to Maintain Body Heat” is a common problem with premature babies, and hypothermia is defined as “abnormally low body temperature”. A premature baby’s response to decreasing body temperature is a slower heart rate, dropping blood pressure, cardiac arrhythmias, passing out, and eventually death. Other normal responses to hypothermia such as shivering, mental confusion, and memory loss are not detected in a premature baby because her body is not mature enough to have these responses. A premature baby may shiver, but many times they will not because of an under-developed shivering response.
The reason a premature baby has such a difficult time keeping her own body warm is due to a low percentage of body fat, an immature neurological system, fragile skin, and a poor metabolism. As these body systems mature, the risk to your premature baby decreases significantly. The simple solution to hypothermia is warming the premature baby up, and making sure her body temperature remains at the normal temperature of 98.6.
An isolette or an incubator is used to keep your premature baby warm, and these enclosed warming beds are designed to keep all drafts away from your baby until she is able to maintain her own body temperature. Sometimes a radiant heater is used to keep your premature baby warm. When your baby reaches about 4 ½ pounds (2,000 grams), she can be moved out of her warm enclosed bed to an open hospital crib. Weight gain is an important goal because this increases your premature baby’s body fat, and this in turn holds the heat from escaping your baby’s body.
There are two kinds of body fat that are important to your premature baby. The most important one is brown body fat because this fat actually helps to produce body the heat that your premature baby needs. The other fat, white fat, is important too because it holds the heat in that is produced by the brown body fat.
A premature baby, even one “old enough” to go home, will not be allowed to leave the hospital until she can maintain a normal body temperature. This is a safeguard to insure that your premature baby will not have problems from hypothermia. When your premature baby has reached this milestone, she can maintain her body temperature from this point onward.
Sjona Lindquist is a mom of 6 (1 angel) and she owns and operates BabyLinq.com Preemie Store. BabyLinq.com Preemie Store is a resource site and specialty shop for parents of premature babies. Lindquist's daughter was stillborn from a Strep B infection due to PROM (Premature Rupture of Membranes). In honor of her daughter, Michaela, she offers preemie support, bereavement support, and preemie clothes. Some of the products include micro target="_new" preemie clothes , preemie bereavement gowns , and Preemie dresses. If a new preemie has entered your life or someone you love, drop by and visit us! BabyLinq.com Preemie Store