Your Late Preterm Baby: Care Instructions

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Your Care Instructions

Your baby was born a few weeks early and needs some extra time to fully develop and grow. During that time, you and the hospital staff will work together to keep your baby warm and well-fed. And you have a special job—to stroke, cuddle, and love your baby.

Now that your baby is coming home, you will be busy with diapers, feedings, and the same basic care as any newborn baby. Your baby also will need help to stay warm. He or she needs to be fed small amounts slowly for a while. Your baby may be fed through a tube that runs down the nose or mouth into the belly until he or she is strong enough to suck from a breast or bottle.

Many newborn babies have a yellow tint to their skin and the whites of their eyes. This is called jaundice, and it usually goes away on its own. But jaundice can cause severe problems for babies who are born early, so you will need to watch for signs that your baby's jaundice does not go away or gets worse.

With the special care that your baby needs, you may feel overwhelmed at times. Remember that you and your partner also have needs. Take good care of yourselves and each other. Your doctor can help you and your family care for your baby.

Follow-up care is a key part of your child's treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if your child is having problems. It's also a good idea to know your child's test results and keep a list of the medicines your child takes.

How can you care for your child at home?

To keep your baby warm

  • Keep your home at an even, warm temperature, around 72°F. Keep your baby away from drafty areas, like open windows or air conditioning vents.
  • Clothe your baby with at least two layers, such as a T-shirt and diaper under a gown or sleeper.
  • Cover your baby's head with a knit hat.
  • Wrap (swaddle) your baby in a blanket. When you swaddle your baby, keep the blanket loose around the hips and legs. If the legs are wrapped tightly or straight, hip problems may develop.
  • Hold your baby as much as possible.

To feed your baby

  • Follow your baby's feeding schedule. This will tell you how much your baby can eat and how often to nurse or bottle-feed. Do not go longer than 4 hours between feedings.
  • Small feedings may help reduce spitting up. Talk to your doctor if your baby spits up a lot during or after feedings.
  • If your baby has a feeding tube, follow instructions for its use and care. Your doctor or the hospital staff will show you how to use it.

For jaundice

  • Watch your newborn for signs that jaundice is not going away or is getting worse. Undress your baby and look at their skin closely twice a day. In babies with jaundice, the skin and the whites of the eyes will be a brighter yellow. For dark-skinned babies, gently press on your baby's skin on the forehead, nose, or chest. Then when you lift your finger, check to see if the skin looks yellow.
  • Make sure your baby is getting plenty of fluids. If you are not sure how much your baby should eat, ask your baby's doctor.
  • Call your doctor if you notice signs that jaundice gets worse or does not go away.

When should you call for help?

Call 911 anytime you think your child may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • Your baby has trouble breathing.

Call your doctor now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • Your baby has a rectal temperature of less than 97.5 °F (36.4 °C) or 100.4 °F (38 °C) or more. Call if you cannot take your baby's temperature, but your baby seems hot.
  • Your baby's yellow tint gets brighter or deeper.
  • Your baby seems very sleepy, is not eating or nursing well, or does not act normally.
  • Your baby has no wet diapers for 6 hours or shows other signs of needing more fluids, such as having strong-smelling urine.

Watch closely for changes in your child's health, and be sure to contact your doctor if:

  • You have any problems with your child's feedings or medicine.

Where can you learn more?

Go to

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The Health Encyclopedia contains general health information. Not all treatments or services described are covered benefits for Kaiser Permanente members or offered as services by Kaiser Permanente. For a list of covered benefits, please refer to your Evidence of Coverage or Summary Plan Description. For recommended treatments, please consult with your health care provider.