If your baby was born prematurely, she may have two ages. She will have an ‘actual age’ calculated from the day she was born, but she will also have an ‘adjusted age’ calculated from her due date. This is because babies are supposed to spend around 40 weeks in the womb, preparing for birth. Babies born prematurely sometimes need a little bit of time to catch up on the time they missed in utero.
Why do premature babies have an adjusted age?
Premature babies are not expected to meet milestones at the same time as other babies, this is why an adjusted age is used. If your baby was born 10 weeks early, she wouldn’t be expected to smile at around six weeks like other babies. Six weeks after her birth date, your baby still wouldn’t be passed her due date and so wouldn’t be expected to meet the same milestones as full-term babies born on the same day. Instead, you should expect your daughter to smile for the first time when she is six weeks old according to her adjusted age. That is, around six weeks after your due date.
Premature babies often spend the first few weeks of life trying to catch up. Your baby has been busy working on skills like maintaining her body temperature and breathing on her own. Your baby is likely to catch up with her peers, though how long this takes can vary from baby to baby. Most experts recommend that the adjusted age should be used until your child is around two years old, by then most premature children have caught up with their peers.
Talking to friends and family
You may find it useful to explain the difference between actual and adjusted age to your friends and family. It can be hurtful to hear people comparing your baby to babies born at full-term and questioning why your baby isn’t on the same level developmentally. Simply explain that while babies born at full-term were born with many basic skills, your powerful little baby had to work on all that when she was born. Not only is this incredible, but hopefully it will encourage people to readjust their expectations and gain a deeper understanding of what it means to be born premature.
Written by Fiona (@Fiona_Peacock), mother, writer and lover of all things baby related.
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a trained medical doctor. Health & Parenting Ltd disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information, which is provided to you on a general information basis only and not as a substitute for personalized medical advice. All contents copyright © Health & Parenting Ltd 2016. All rights reserved.