Once a preterm baby has been born, a type of drug called surfactant can help them breathe. Lungs that aren't mature enough are "stiff" and can't easily expand to let the baby breathe in and out properly. Surfactant is a fluid that is usually produced in babies’ lungs after about 31 weeks of pregnancy.
If a baby is born preterm, he or she will be taken care of and carefully monitored by a special team of medical professionals. The baby may need a lot of help to breathe properly, stay warm and get enough food. Depending on how premature the baby is, special intensive care treatment might be needed.
While waiting until a preterm baby is out of danger, parents usually face a lot of fears and worries. Even if their baby needs specialist care, there are things mothers can do to help. For instance, they can stimulate the production of breast milk and express their milk (perhaps with help), to give to their baby once he or she is able to drink it.
It's normal to focus on your child after a preterm birth. But it's also important to look after yourself so you can recover from the birth, and deal emotionally with your feelings and everything you have gone through. This can help give you the strength to be involved in your baby's care as much as possible.
At one month of age, a preterm baby is likely to be as big as they would have been if they had stayed inside their mother's belly. For example, if your baby was born after seven months of pregnancy, at one month of age they will be the size of an unborn baby at eight months of pregnancy. So, for a while, the baby will be smaller and less mature than babies who are born full-term around the same time. How well the baby gets on will depend on a lot of factors. But if no big problems arise, preterm babies are usually ready to leave the hospital at around the time of their original due date.