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Premature Babies Resource Centre

How to find what you are looking for

This resource centre has been organized to follow the natural course of the journey of a premature baby. It includes information about the causes of prematurity, the challenges of premature birth, the development of the baby, and the long-term implications of prematurity. The material in this resource centre has been written in collaboration with neonatologists, nurse practitioners, neonatal nurses, respiratory therapists, dietitians, lactation consultants, psychologists, paediatricians, occupational therapists and other health care staff affiliated with The Hospital for Sick Children.

About Premature Babies

This section provides information about the causes of prematurity and the challenges premature babies typically face immediately following birth. These include problems with breathing, feeding, and other conditions. It also describes the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) which is often a premature baby's first destination following birth.

Understanding Diagnosis

This section describes the different ways in which doctors and other health care professionals diagnose the condition of a premature newborn baby. While many premature babies do not have major problems, others do. Diagnosis may require several steps before a concise conclusion can be made about the condition of a premature baby. Diagnosis is also the first step in treatment.


Following diagnosis, if problems have been identified, treatments may begin. This section describes how the most common conditions premature babies face are treated. These pages also describe how the environment of the NICU is, in a way, a treatment in and of itself. By attempting to recreate the conditions in the womb, a premature baby is given time to mature in the outside world, which may be all the treatment a premature baby needs. Other treatments, such as surgery and drug therapy are described.

At Home

This section describes what parents need to know when they bring their premature baby home from the hospital.  Routine medical concerns, which all babies encounter, are discussed as are typical problems associated with prematurity.

Looking Ahead

Premature birth may have implications beyond infancy and into childhood. Some premature babies will have lifelong conditions that will impact the rest of their lives. Sometimes, these conditions are physical in nature, other times psychological or intellectual. This section describes what parents should look out for and explains what to do if problems arise. Special attention is paid to school and pre-school years.

What can you do?

Parents’ participation in a baby’s care, even in the smallest ways, encourages bonding between parent and child, and is beneficial to the baby’s health. Learn more about how parents can be involved.

Helping your baby breathe

Many premature babies have trouble breathing on their own because their lungs are not fully developed. Learn more about a substance called surfactant that can help some premature babies breathe.

What happens in the NICU?

The NICU can be a daunting place, full of complicated equipment. Learn more about what this equipment does in this interactive module.

Andrew James, MBChB, MBI, FRACP, FRCPC