Skip to Content

Normal Growth and Development of Premature Newborns


Normal growth and development is how your premature newborn sleeps, eats, learns, and grows. A premature newborn is born earlier than 37 weeks gestation. Full-term newborns are born at 40 weeks gestation. Premature newborns may be born before their body has fully developed. This can cause problems with feeding, breathing, or staying warm. Your premature newborn may need to stay in the hospital so he can grow and develop enough to go home with you. The earlier the birth of your newborn, the higher his risk of health problems.


Premature newborn development:

A premature newborn's development may be slower than newborns who were born full-term.

  • Your newborn may have problems with sucking and swallowing. Growth may be affected by poor feeding and nutrition problems.
  • Your newborn may be born with underdeveloped heart and lungs. This may cause problems in his blood supply or breathing.
  • Your newborn's movements may seem awkward. As he grows older, he may sit, stand, walk, or run later than a full-term newborn.
  • Your newborn's brain development may be affected by disease, infection, or poor nutrition. Injury to the brain may lead to other problems with hearing, eyesight, and learning.
  • Your newborn's ability to respond to things he sees and hears may be slower than other newborns. This may include seeing and knowing family members and smiling back at them.

Care for your premature newborn:

  • Always place your newborn on his back to sleep. Swaddle him in a blanket. Keep the room quiet and warm. Keep the lights dim.
  • Hold your newborn's head so that it is higher than his stomach when you feed him. Look for skin color changes when he eats. Stop from time to time to allow him to take enough breaths between sucks. Your newborn may tire easily when feeding. Stop the feeding if he looks tired.
  • Follow up with your newborn's healthcare provider as directed. Regular medical checkups and vaccinations are necessary. Your newborn may get infections easily because of his weak immune system. It is important to get him vaccinated to protect his health.
  • Learn your newborn's behaviors and signs. Your newborn will cry to let you know that he is hungry, wet, or wants your attention. You will soon be able to hear the differences in his crying. Set up a routine of sleeping and eating. A regular routine is important to make sure you and your newborn get enough rest and sleep. A routine also makes your newborn feel safe and learn to trust you.
  • Use approved car seats or beds correctly. Use a car seat without a shield harness since the shield can be too high for small newborns. Put the car seat in the back seat of the car and face it backward. Make sure an adult stays with your newborn in the back. Ask for instructions on putting a premature newborn in a car seat or bed.

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.

Learn more about Normal Growth and Development of Premature Newborns (Aftercare Instructions)

Associated drugs

IBM Watson Micromedex