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The Knowledge You Need for Parenting a Preemie

HELPING PREEMIES GROW

A premature or preterm baby is born before 37 weeks of gestation. Preemies often require hospitalization but mom can help her preemie from day one, says Dr. Bixby, a CHOC Neonatologist. “Early on, the best way for a preemie to grow is with the mother’s milk. Moms can start pumping in the hospital and should start pumping as soon as possible after delivery. We also have found that having the parents place the infant on their chests, skin to skin (called “kangaroo care”) helps the baby grow, breathe better and develop better.” Parents should ask their neonatologist and pediatrician about medical issues to watch for as their preemie grows. Keeping up with standard vaccinations and special vaccinations for preemies is also important, says Dr. Bixby. Parents should also keep up with their vaccinations, particularly influenza and pertussis vaccines, which will protect the baby until the babies immune system has matured and the standard vaccines are completed.

DEVELOPMENTAL MILESTONES

“Premature infants are at risk for developmental delays so parents should be watchful of the developmental milestones, taking into account the appropriate delay from an early birth,” says Dr. Bixby. Preemies visit CHOC’s Early Developmental Assessment Clinic at 6 months of age for a full assessment of the baby’s development and nutritional needs and a referral to the appropriate specialist if necessary, she said, adding, “Parents and families should create a loving and engaging home environment so the baby is encouraged to move around and reach for things and interact with the world and learn.”

PREVENTING PRETERM DELIVERY

Pregnant women are encouraged to seek prenatal care as soon as possible to help prevent a premature delivery and to identify any potential problems that could lead to a preterm birth, says Dr. Bixby. “Pregnant women should see their family practice doctor or obstetrician regularly and get a referral to a specialist if there are concerns about the pregnancy. Good dental care helps too. Research shows that dental disease or poor dentition is associated with preterm delivery. Mom should take care of herself, get some exercise in consultation with your obstetrician and eat well.”

FAST FACTS

  • Annual cost to society for premature births: $26 Billion+
  • Percent increase over the last 25 years in premature births in the U.S.: 36
  • Number of premature babies born each year in the U.S. (1 IN 9 BABIES): 500,000

Meet Dr. Bixby - CHOC Neonatologist

Dr. Christine Bixby completed her fellowship in neonatology at Harbor UCLA Medical Center and also completed her residency and internship training in pediatrics at Harbor UCLA Medical Center. She completed a fellowship in neonatology in a joint program between CHOC and Harbor UCLA Medical Center. Dr. Bixby specializes in caring for premature infants and is involved in research studies focusing on issues related to breast milk, establishing a milk supply and using breast milk for premature babies.

Dr. Bixby’s philosophy of care: “My philosophy of care is to bring in the parents and family as part of the health care team and making sure they are educated and comfortable with the care we are giving their children.”

EDUCATION:
University of California, Davis, School of Medicine

BOARD CERTIFICATIONS:
Pediatrics Neonatal-Perinatal Medicine

Christine Bixby

Breastfeeding Premature Infants

Parents of premature infants face many new challenges as they help their special infant grow and flourish, and breastfeeding is often one of them.

“Breastfeeding a preemie is possible but the exclusive breastfeeding of a baby, especially the earlier premature babies, is not always nutritionally appropriate,” says Dr. Christine Bixby, a CHOC Children’s neonatologist who specializes in caring for premature infants.

Podcast: Tips for Mitigating the Risk of Preterm Labor

Prematurity is the number one killer of babies worldwide, says Dr. Tony Soliman, a CHOC Children’s neonatologist. Even if a woman does everything right, her baby can still be born prematurely. In this CHOC Radio segment, Dr. Soliman addresses this serious health concern and offers tips for mitigating the risk of preterm labor.

New Process Leads to Safer Breast Milk Handling

CHOC Children’s is seeing fewer breast milk feeding errors after a more than two-year initiative to redesign the process for safer and more efficient handling.

With very few government regulations in place, hospitals across the country struggle to establish best practices in handling breast milk, and CHOC is no different. Busy nurses are often tasked with collecting, labeling, inventorying and distributing dozens of bottles during a shift, amidst other critical responsibilities.

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Knowledge is the best medicine. Learn more about your child's health in these features from the experts at CHOC.

Telemedicine
Telemedicine encompasses a broad range of different applications,” says Dr. Knight, CHOC’s Pediatric Transport and Telemedicine expert. In a nutshell, telemedicine, also sometimes called telehealth, is the delivery of health care services using telecommunications or electronic technology.


Kids and Tonsils
Tonsils are removed much less frequently than in the past, but removal may be necessary under specific circumstances. “There are two predominant reasons for removing tonsils and/or adenoids in children,” says Dr. Ahuja, CHOC Children’s Specialists Division Chief of Otolaryngology.


Kids Living With Food Allergies
A food allergy usually occurs in the first two years of life, says Dr. Ellis, a CHOC Allergy and Immunology Specialist. “It’s important to know that allergic reactions to food typically occur immediately or within two hours of eating the food,” Dr. Ellis explains.


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UC Irvine

CHOC Children's is affiliated with the UC Irvine School of Medicine