Parenting in the NICU - a quick look

quick look preemiehelp

Learning about the NICU and ways of helping and bonding with your preemie can help you manage some of the stress and uncertainty associated with a preterm birth.


Finding special ways to connect & understand preterm birth

The joy of childbirth is often short-lived for parents of preterm babies. Isolation from your newborn, extended hospital stays, and the uncertainty associated with medical procedures, takes a massive emotional and physical toll. This section has been created to help you navigate your way through some tough times. It covers everything from family-centred care, tips on how to bond with your preemie, helping out in the NICU, what to bring, to learning to read your prem's body language


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Defining Preterm Birth

Preemie is the colloquial term used to refer to babies that are born too early or before the due date of birth. Preemie is short for premature birth or preterm birth and some people also use such terms as prem baby or premmie baby.

Any parent of a preemie will no doubt have their own very personal understanding of what this term means. It possibly evokes intense memories both stressful and triumphant that are difficult to express to those unfamiliar with the reality of the experience. It is our aim to close the gap between the vague understandings the general public often has of “preemies” and the reality this situation has for those parents who have intimate firsthand knowledge.

Preemie is the colloquial term used to refer to babies that are born too early or before the due date of birth. Preemie is short for premature birth or preterm birth and some people also use such terms as prem baby or premmie baby.

The earlier an infant is born the greater the risk for both short term and long term complications, therefore medical staff and researchers often refer to the degree of preterm birth to help identify those babies at greatest risk for these health problems associated with preterm birth. This is defined by categorising infants according to gestational age. Gestational age refers to the amount of time a baby has spent in the uterus. For example, normal term or full term infants are born between 38 and 42 weeks after the mother’s last menstrual period or their gestational age is 38 to 42 weeks. So, if a baby is 28 weeks gestational age they have spent 28 weeks growing in the mother’s uterus and is therefore 12 weeks early.

Technically a preterm birth is when an infant is born less than 37 completed gestational weeks.

The categories of preterm birth are:

  • extremely preterm (less than 28 weeks gestation),
  • very preterm (28 to 32 weeks gestation), and
  • preterm (33 to 37 weeks gestation).

Preterm infants are born before they are fully developed and are usually born much lighter than full term infants. Low birth weight is an important indicator of health status and is defined as those babies born less than 2,500 grams (5 ½ pounds).

Low birth weight is further categorised as;

  • very low birth weight or those born less than 1,500 grams (3 1/3 pounds) and
  • extremely low birth weight or those born less than 1,000 grams (2 ¼ pounds).

The term “micro preemie” has recently been coined and refers to the smallest and youngest preemie babies. Changes and advances in medical care have improved the outcomes of preterm babies and micro preemies or those born less than 26 weeks gestation and/or less than 750 grams have a much greater chance of survival.

Small for gestational age

Small for gestational age, or SGA, is defined as having a birth weight less than the 10th percentile on the standard growth curve for a particular gestational age. Sometimes this is called intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR).

Preemies born small for gestational age are at greater risk for health problems.

In the USA:

Average birth weight = 3,500 grams

In Australia:

Average birth weight = 3,370 grams

Category Definition

Low Birth Weight

< 2,500 g
Very Low Birth Weight < 1,500 g

Extremely low birth weight

< 1,000 g
Preterm 32 – 37 weeks gestation

Very preterm

28 - 32 weeks gestation
Extremely preterm < 28 weeks gestation
Source: (Laws, Abeywardana, Walker, & Sullivan, 2007)


Technical Reference List

Laws, P., Abeywardana, S., Walker, J., & Sullivan, E. (2007). Australia's mothers and babies 2005 Perinatal Statistics Series. Sydney, Australia: AIHW National Perinatal Statistics Unit.
Laws, P., & Hilder, L. (2008). Australia's mothers and babies 2006. Perinatal statistics series. Sydney: AIHW National Perinatal Statistics Unit.



AlbertEinstein_iconOne of the greatest minds in history, Albert Einstein was born preterm.

Help us help you!

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Preemie Help is also looking to provide a resource for any professionals that have contact with preterm babies and children in order to help them best understand the challenges that face a preemie. Get in contact to help us impact preemies.

Preemie, Premmie, or Prem?

Most babies spend between 38 and 42 weeks in their mother’s uterus. So, technically a preterm birth, preemie, premmie, or prem, is an infant who is born less than 37 completed gestational weeks. 

Read More: Defining Preterm birth



New Release - Preemie Development

All in one easy to read eguide

‘The complete preemie guide to: ‘Preemie development’ is the must have guide to the NICU for new preemie parents.

With an easy-to-read layout this comprehensive guide is over 130 pages of important information about the NICU and your preemie.

Using Adobe’s .pdf format makes the guide usable across a wide range of platforms from ipad to PC, smartphone to macbook.

Packed with extra features like progress charts, NICU checklists and plenty of others. ‘The preemie guide’ is a must for any new parents.