Premature infants, often called preemies, are babies born before 37 weeks of pregnancy has been completed. More than one in 10 babies born in the United States is a preemie. While it is common for parents of any infant to fret over the stages of baby's development, parents of premature babies are likely to be even more vigilant.
As the conscientious parent of a preterm baby, you probably assess your little one's development regularly. When you measure his progress, consider his corrected age. The day he was born is his official birth date, but his original due date is also important. To calculate his corrected age, start with the number of weeks since he was born. Subtract the number of weeks he was preterm. This will give you his adjusted age. If your baby is 12 weeks old, but was born six weeks early, his adjusted age is six weeks. Expect his development to be similar to full-term babies of the corrected age.
Look for Progress
The American Academy of Pediatrics notes that babies develop at their own pace and in their own fashion. It's not a race. Children don't reach each milestone at the same time, particularly if they were born early. The AAP advises looking for progress over time -- watch for advances in his development. For example, he should progress from sitting up to standing and later to walking. While babies develop at different ages, you can track your child's progress by consulting typical milestones.
Use your child's adjusted age when comparing his development. At two months, he might move his legs and hands actively and keep his hands open the majority of the time. When lying on his tummy, he might lift his head and chest. He may control his head a little bit and hold objects like infant toys in his hands. He might turn to hear Mom's voice or the rattle of a toy and cry when he wants food or changing. He might reward you with eye contact and a smile. He is beginning to enjoy his interactions with you.
At four months adjusted age, your little guy might bring his hands together or to his mouth. You might see him lift his head and push with his arms during tummy time. He could reach for objects and turn to the side. His delightful smile may turn into a precious laugh or squeal and he might combine sounds like "goo-gaa." He is getting more excited by toys and might be putting things in his mouth. He is growing comfortable with parents and caregivers and has an increasingly playful attitude.
Six to Nine Months
By six months adjusted age, your little guy might begin to put his weight on his feet when you hold him in a standing position. He could be sitting by himself and rolling over from tummy to back. He is likely responding to his name and turning to look. You might hear more babbling and an increase in variety of sounds. At nine months, he might be more mobile -- crawling, moving along furniture and walking while you hold his hand. He can recognize some familiar words like "hi" and "bath." You might find he can now resist you when you try to take toys away. He will enjoy a game of peek-a-boo and respond enthusiastically to play.