The preterm newborn is a miracle that came into the world at an earlier time, a fragile miracle, but which, with lots of attention, love and special care, can manage to evolve spectacularly. A baby born before Week 37 and weighing less than 2,500 grams is considered preterm and in most cases it needs a longer period of hospitalisation, during which the baby must be able to adapt to its new living environment. Significant growth and natural development continue during the last few weeks of intrauterine life, thus causing the preterm baby to encounter difficulties in certain functions, such as breathing, temperature control and feeding. A physiotherapist is an important partner during preterm recovery and the therapy should begin as soon as possible after birth, as soon as the child’s health permits it. In maternities, the physical therapist observes and assesses the baby’s preterm developmental needs and, together with the team from the Neonatology department, sets up the individualised recovery programmes. The assessment of the preterm newborn will always take into account their age of motor development rather than their chronological age. Rehabilitation therapy may consist of stimuli to improve respiratory function and swallowing, or to correct positioning so as to prevent vicious attitudes. Furthermore, the physical therapist helps and encourages the family to interact with the baby as much as possible, giving them information about how to transport, position and stimulate it. Sometimes the recovery process can be long and tedious, with the preterm child achieving a normal development around the age of 2 years, during which the family must pay more attention towards recovering the sensory-motor deficit.
Iulian Nicolae, Physical Therapist Paediatrician