Skip to Content

Growth And Development Of Premature Babies


Growth and development is how your premature baby learns, interacts, expresses himself, and physically grows. The earlier the birth of your baby, the higher his risk of health and development problems.


Long-term development problems:

Your baby may be at risk for long-term problems due to an immature brain and nervous system. The earlier your baby is born, the greater the risk for long-term problems. There are early intervention programs that can help your baby from birth to age 3 with developmental delays or disabilities. Ask your healthcare provider for more information about early intervention programs. Your baby may be at risk for any of the following:

  • Problems with motor development such as holding his head up, crawling, and walking may happen. Your child may also have trouble caring for himself. He may not be able to feed and dress himself at the age that he should. He may need physical or occupational therapy to help manage these problems.
  • Problems with cognitive development may happen. He may have difficulty with learning, understanding, and paying attention. Your child may also have difficulty speaking and communicating with others. He may need special education or speech therapy to help him manage these problems.
  • Behavior problems , such as aggression, anxiety, or problems with social skills, may happen. He may need counseling or other support to help him manage these problems.
  • Medical conditions such as asthma, seizures, cerebral palsy, or autism, may affect your baby for the rest of his life.

Growth and development milestones in the first year of life:

Calculate your baby's true age to decide if he has reached milestones. For example, if your baby is 10 weeks old, but was born 6 weeks early, subtract 6 from 10. Your baby's true age is 4 weeks old. Premature babies may take longer to reach milestones than babies that are born on time. The following is an overview of milestones you should look for:

  • At 2 months (4 weeks) of age your baby can lift his head with support, move his arms and legs, and hold objects in his hands. He can turn his head to noises and make cooing or babbling sounds. He can follow moving objects with his eyes, and smile. He recognizes his mother or primary caregiver.
  • At 4 months (16 weeks) of age your baby can reach for objects and make crawling motions when on his tummy. He can pull his hands to his mouth, laugh, and begins to interact more with parents and others.
  • At 6 months (24 weeks) of age your baby can sit up on his own, roll over from his tummy to his back, and put weight on his feet when held in a standing position. He shakes objects, responds to his name, and reacts differently to strangers than his parents. He may start to make more sounds, and can express happiness or unhappiness.
  • At 9 months (32 week) of age your baby can pull himself up to standing, crawl, and walk when his hands are held. He can imitate sounds and say simple words like mama, or dada. He can pick up, and hold objects such as a bottle.
  • At 12 months (40 weeks) of age your baby can stand alone and begins taking steps. He may start to use more words and combine movements with sounds. He helps with getting dressed and plays with other children.

Get support for you and your baby:

Caring for a premature baby can be difficult. Ask your healthcare provider how you can get help with caring for your baby. There are early intervention programs that can help your baby grow and develop. Talk with other parents who have raised a premature baby.

Follow up with your baby's healthcare provider as directed:

Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

© 2016 Truven Health Analytics Inc. Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or Truven Health Analytics.

The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.