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Premature Baby Behavior

Premature Baby Behavior

For the first few weeks they’re home, it may be hard to guess how your baby is going to behave. But after a short time you'll be able to predict their reactions and responses—their preemie behavior will become part of your routine.


Your preemie will most likely do all of the things that all babies do—it just may take them a little longer. If they’re like most

babies, they came home even before his original due date. That means they have some catching up to do when it comes to acting like a full-term baby. While your baby is tiny, they’re still very aware of their surroundings. They just don't have the same communication skills as an older infant.

Helping Your Baby Learn

You may have watched your baby trying to get their hand to their mouth over and over again—without much success. This is typical premature baby behavior. It's not that your baby isn't graceful. It's just that their nervous system isn't fully developed, and their movements aren't as smooth and coordinated as they will be once they’ve had some time to grow.

Even so, your tiny baby is eager to learn. You can help them by:

  • Holding them while supporting just their head and body while they kick their legs and wave their arms to help build their muscles.
  • Gently playing with them while slowly moving their arms and legs.
  • Talking to your baby in a warm, enthusiastic voice, which helps them feel your love.
  • Placing your baby on their tummy to play—over time you'll see them practice raising their head (never place your baby on their tummy to sleep).
  • Encouraging them to lift their head and look at you by talking gently and coming close to them with your head above theirs.

Your Baby's Breathing

A baby's breathing patterns can change rapidly without warning. To learn what's normal for your baby, you may want to try:

  • Counting how many times they take a breath each minute.
  • Identifying their moods by watching their chest as they breathe while resting, playing, crying and while they’re upset.
  • Listening to the noises they make as they breathe.

The more familiar you become with your baby's preemie behavior, the easier it will be to recognize when they act differently. Remember, if you're ever concerned about their breathing or color, call the doctor right away.

Your Baby's Sleeping

Your baby will probably sleep more than anything else during their first weeks at home—sometimes 15 to 22 hours a day. Some babies have trouble adjusting from the bright lights and noisy NICU to a more peaceful home environment.

If your baby has trouble sleeping, you may want to try:

  • Using a night light and playing soft background music (gradually lower the lights and turn off the music as they adjust to being home).
  • Slowing down the way you relate to them in the evening, so they learn that nighttime is for sleeping and eating—not for playing.

Now that you have a better handle on your premature baby’s behavior, learn more about their development and milestones to look out for.

All information on Enfamil, including but not limited to information about health, medical conditions, and nutrition, is intended for your general knowledge and is not a substitute for a healthcare professional's medical identification, advice, or management for specific medical conditions. You should seek medical care and consult your doctor or pediatrician for any specific health or nutrition issues. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking medical treatment, care, or help because of information you have read on Enfamil.