All babies grow and develop at their own rate. But if your baby was born premature — within 37 weeks of conception — they might hit their developmental milestones at a speed different from their full-term peers. And, that’s completely fine.
By the age of 2, most preemies catch up with their full-term peers and are on track developmentally.
What is a corrected age?
To adjust your baby's age, count how many weeks early your baby was born and subtract that from their actual age. This is their corrected age.
For example, if your baby was born 32 weeks after conception, they were 8 weeks early. Subtract 8 weeks from their actual age to figure out their corrected age for developmental milestones. In this case, at 16 weeks old, your baby would be at a corrected age of 8 weeks.
It's important to use your baby's corrected age when assessing their milestones so that you can accurately decide if they may need extra help. Even pediatricians always use the corrected age when discussing a premature baby's development.
Uses of developmental milestones
Developmental milestones are just a guide, and here are a few positive ways you can use them in.
Keeping Your Baby Safe
By knowing what your baby may soon be able to do, you can stay ahead of them as far as childproofing goes.
You can also make sure you're not expecting them to do more than they're capable of — like leaving them in an unsupported sitting position too early.
Encouraging Your Baby's Development
You can see where your baby is developmentally and what milestones will be coming up. By providing appropriate play or activities, you can encourage specific milestones — like providing lots of safe tummy time for a baby who will soon be rolling over.
Noticing When There May Be an Issue
If your baby isn't hitting developmental milestones — even with their corrected age — you can talk to your pediatrician about it. Babies vary widely in their development, but if there’s a problem, early intervention is always the best.
Do premature babies have developmental delays?
Preemies are more likely to have developmental delays than babies born full-term. If your baby was born more than a few weeks early, they are more at-risk for developmental delays even when adjusting for their corrected age. For most premature babies, these developmental differences aren't serious and will eventually resolve. Babies who are very premature are more likely to experience significant developmental delays.
Babies born between 34 and 37 weeks of conception — called late preterm — usually catch up by the time they're 2 years old, but there’s some concern about reading and math skills in preschool and kindergarten.
A study on 6,000 children found that compared with children born at full-term, children born at late preterm were more likely to have learning disabilities in preschool and kindergarten — even if they were caught up developmentally by the age of 2 years.
What you can do to help
Here are some of the many things you can do at home to provide a nurturing environment and help your baby reach their milestones.
At 0 to 6 Months
At this age, touching and cuddling your baby will help their development. Try giving your baby a gentle massage. Sing to your baby when you change their diaper. Talk to your baby about what you're doing.
You can also give your baby plenty of tummy time to encourage them to reach for things and roll over.
At 6 to 12 Months
Your baby is probably very interested in food at this age. Though it can be messy, let your baby play with and explore their food. It will help your baby adapt to new experiences.
Encourage your baby to try different tastes and textures. They learn a lot through the sensory experiences related to eating.
At 12 to 18 Months
When your baby starts walking, they'll continue to use their senses to explore their environment. Encourage your baby to use their sense of smell by letting them stop to smell flowers when you walk with them or herbs and spices when you cook dinner.
At 18 to 24 Months
Talk to your baby about everything that's going on around them. Point out animals and other things you think they'll be interested in.
This is a great age to start describing things, such as the red flower or the round pancake. Even if your baby isn't saying much back, encourage their babbling responses.
This is also the time to encourage your baby's imaginative play. Let your baby play alongside you while you work. If you're making dinner, give your baby some utensils and an empty bowl to play with. Don't forget to let your baby help out with mixing the muffin batter.
Health Solutions From Our Sponsors
Emory University School of Medicine: "Motor Impairment Associated with Neurological Injury in Premature Infants."
Healthychildren.org: "Corrected Age for Preemies," "Your Preemie's Growth & Developmental Milestones."
Pathways: "Easy Daily Activities to Help Baby Reach Milestones."
Tommy's: "Growth and development after prematurity."
Top Do Premature Babies Hit Their Milestones Later Related Articles
Baby's 1st Yr SlideshowWhat developmental milestones can you expect to see during baby's first year? Find out when babies learn to smile, laugh, crawl, and talk.
elemental infant formulaElemental infant formula is a special hypoallergenic formula used to feed infants who are allergic to or unable to digest cow’s milk, soy-based, or pre-digested protein formulas. There have been recent reports of broken bones, rickets, and other bone disorders in infants fed with Neocate infant formula. Side effects linked to Neocate infant formula include low phosphate levels in the blood (hypophosphatemia), rickets, fractures, nutritional deficiencies, stunted growth, skeletal deformities, and long-term skeletal damage.
infant formulaInfant formula is a special dried milk powder used as a substitute for or to supplement breast milk in the first 12 months of a baby’s life. Infant formula is made to resemble breast milk as closely as possible and attempts to provide all the nutrition a baby needs including protein, carbohydrates, fats, minerals, and vitamins. Infant formula provides nutrition and does not generally have side effects. Some infants, however, may have intolerance or allergy to milk proteins or soy, and special formula may be required for such infants.
ParentingGood parenting helps foster empathy, honesty, self-reliance, self-control, kindness, cooperation, and cheerfulness, says Steinberg, a distinguished professor of psychology at Temple University in Philadelphia. It also promotes intellectual curiosity, motivation, and desire to achieve. It helps protect children from developing anxiety, depression, eating disorders, antisocial behavior, and alcohol and drug abuse.
What Are the 5 Stages of Child Development?Children undergo various changes in terms of physical, speech, intellectual, and cognitive development until adolescence. The five stages of child development include the newborn, infant, toddler, preschool, and school-age stages.
What Causes High Calcium Levels in Infants?Elevated levels of calcium in the blood indicate a condition known as hypercalcemia. The causes of high calcium levels may vary with age and other factors. High calcium levels in infants can be caused by excess calcium in food, excessive vitamin D intake, excessive vitamin A intake, primary hyperparathyroidism or an increase in parathyroid hormone (PTH), cancerous tumors, injury to skin or fat tissue, infectious diseases (leprosy and histoplasmosis), immobilization or bed rest, and family history of genetic disorders.
When Can I Make a Baby Sit?Most babies can sit at about 9 months and may be able to get in and out of a sitting posture with a little support. Learn about child development milestones.