Premature Baby Development

You probably heard the old adage – every baby’s development is different, even amongst siblings. This holds most true when it comes to preemies. Normal baby development milestones are calculated according to your baby’s due date. Because your little one has arrived a little earlier than expected, you need to adjust your expectations accordingly.

What is an adjusted age?
Because most growth development charts are based on the fact that a baby has developed fully in their mother’s womb, you need to adjust for your baby’s preterm birth. One way of doing this is to calculate your baby’s ‘adjusted age’, as opposed to their chronological age. Adjusted age is based on your preemie’s due date, rather than their actual birth date. You can work it out as follows:

Actual age – No. of weeks between birth date and due date = Adjusted Age

For example, if your little one is 9 months old but was born 2 months before their due date, their adjusted age is 7 months.

What differences can I expect in my preemie’s development?
Even though it’s different for each preemie, an adjusted age is most helpful to adjust for physical development milestones, as preemies tend to be more delayed in their motor development than their cognitive development.

Speech and language development is often affected in premature babies. Between 40-70% of preemies have some kind of oral aversion. This can lead to problems with oral motor development, which in turn affects speech later on. Preemies also have a higher risk for hearing loss, auditory processing and auditory discrimination. Adjust for these by focusing on talking to and reading with your little one frequently, encouraging engagement and imitation, and avoiding baby talk.

Your little one will most probably start catching up to the same development milestones by 2 years of age. By this stage, any differences in development between your child and another child are usually just normal individual differences. However, it can be helpful to take their adjusted age into consideration when approaching bigger milestones, like starting preschool. In these cases, your little one might benefit from being grouped with slightly younger children.

Commit to regular consultations with your doctor to monitor your preemie’s development. This way, if there is an issue with their development, you’ll be able to ensure early intervention, which has been proven to be extremely beneficial for preemies.