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Babies born too soon

It is increasingly common for babies to arrive before their expected due date. Here is some information and other useful details if you are new parents to a premature baby or if your baby is likely to arrive early.

Holding baby's feet

Catch-up growth

When do we describe a baby as premature?

We describe a baby as premature when they are born before the end of the 37th week of pregnancy.(1) Now, more than 12% of births in Africa are premature, and this figure continues to rise.(2)

Currently, thanks to advances in the field of medicine dedicated to premature babies, the majority of these babies grow up to be healthy. Nowadays, even the fact of being born during the 23rd week of pregnancy does not necessarily pose a threat to the baby’s life.

All premature babies require a catch-up growth phase, the duration of which varies for each baby, especially in relation to the gap between the birth and the due date. They haven’t spent enough time inside the womb to complete certain important stages in their development. Premature babies therefore experience some difficulty adjusting during their first few weeks of life. Indeed, the simple acts of breathing and digesting are a major challenge for these still immature babies. They are also incapable of regulating their body temperature by themselves.(3)

In order to help premature babies, specialised maternity units combine intensive medical care with alternative medicine practices such as the kangaroo method. Thanks to this specialised setting, the majority of premature babies grow up to be healthy, even outside of the womb, despite having a more difficult start to life.

The kangaroo method is a practice that involves placing the baby in skin-to-skin contact with their parent. Just like baby kangaroos, safe and warm in their mothers’ pouches, premature babies can also be carried by their mothers, skin-to-skin, to keep them warm and act as a natural incubator. This method reduces mortality, especially among low-weight premature babies and is recommended by the WHO*, particularly in developing countries where other resources are limited.(4)

*WHO: World Health Organization.

Premature babies: an emotional roller coaster

The feelings that a mother or father of a premature baby may experience when they see their fragile little baby for the first time, are often stronger than rational arguments. What’s more, each situation is completely different depending on the individuals. In some pregnancies, premature birth can be predicted several days, or even several weeks earlier, so the future parents are able to get used to the idea of welcoming their baby earlier than expected. But in many cases, premature birth is a sudden event and, at first, the parents feel completely distraught. In all cases, it is an immense burden for the parents to bear. During the first few weeks of the newborn’s life, feelings of joy and anxiety are closely intertwined.

Our advice

Very important: don’t give in to uncertainty and anxiety. The doctors and the rest of the team looking after your baby in the maternity unit are highly skilled and deal with these situations on a daily basis. They are there to help both you and your baby, you can rely on them. Trust them!

It is completely normal and human to feel worried and helpless as a new parent in this situation. That is why you must absolutely accept all the help that you need and that is offered to you.

Further Reading

Some babies simply cannot wait until the calculated date of birth. They enter the world earlier than full-term infants. This leads to challenges for baby and mom. Here you will find information and facts about these little fighters.

It is increasingly common for babies to arrive before their expected due date. Here is some information and other useful details if you are new parents to a premature baby or if your baby is likely to arrive early.


  1. [consulté en décembre 2019].
  2. Chawanpaiboon, Saifon, et al. Global, regional, and national estimates of levels of preterm birth in 2014: a systematic review and modelling analysis. The Lancet Global Health1 (2019) : e37-e46
  3. Newborn health: Challenges facing preterm babies (  [Viewed on:  14/10/2021]
  4. WHO | Kangaroo mother care to reduce morbidity and mortality in low-birth-weight infants [Viewed on:  14/10/2021]

Important notice

By clicking on the "Continue" button, you can learn more about infant nutrition. If you choose to continue, you agree that Danone is supplying this information at your individual request for information purposes.

Breastmilk is the ideal food for infants: it is best adapted to their specific needs. A healthy and balanced diet of the mother is important for the preparation and continuation of breastfeeding. Mixed breastfeeding can interfere with breastfeeding and reduce milk production. It’s hard to reverse the choice of not breastfeeding. If an infant formula is used for a non-breastfed baby, it is important to carefully observe the instructions for preparation and use and to follow the advice of the medical profession. Incorrect use could pose a risk to the child’s health. Socio-economic implications must be considered in the use of infant formula. After 6 months, in addition to breastmilk, water is the only essential drink. Do not hesitate to consult your health care professional if you need advice on feeding your baby.