More than 26,000 babies are born premature each year in Australia (before 37 weeks). Babies who are born less than 32 weeks gestational age are known as very premature babies and are at a higher risk of cerebral palsy and motor delays.  In Australia 1 in 5 babies required admission to the NICU for either prematurity, first nations descent, low birthweight, or a multiple birth. The question is, do babies who are born premature or have a stay in NICU need any extra help in terms of their developmental milestones?

As mentioned, babies who are premature have a higher chance of delays in their motor, cognitive and language development. Meaning that compared to their age matched peers they may be having some trouble with their movements. Physiotherapy is a keyway to help address any motor delays your baby may be experiencing.

The early intervention model is a great way for your little one to be able to access any services they may need to help give them the best start possible. (Cameron et al., 2005). In Australia the Early Childhood Program is designed to assist children ages 0-6 with disability or developmental concerns. The model can put you in contact with any therapy services your baby may need in their first years of life. NDIS Early Childhood Early Intervention supports children with a developmental delay or disability while other supports include Medicare rebates, kindergarten inclusion support scheme.

A study conducted in America followed a population of infants who required a NICU stay. Of the 57 babies, 91% required a form of therapy (occupational, physio or speech therapy) within the first 2 years of life. The average age for physiotherapy involvement was 4 months old. Of the 57 participants 95% of them were seeing a physiotherapist by 12 months of age for a delay in their development.

Research tells us that well timed therapy with activities that challenge the motor and thinking skills can positively impact the development of a preterm infant (Butera, C et al 2022.) Evidence also tells us that preterm infants (born before 37weeks) who have undergone early interventions improve their motor and cognitive outcomes up to school age compared to those who did not complete any interventions.

As a parent all you want is the best for your little one, sometimes you meet your babies a little earlier than expected and may need a bit more help in their development than babies born at full term. Physiotherapy is one of the main disciplines that kids will be involved with to help develop their motor skills.

The physiotherapists at Bump Fitness have experience and training when it comes to helping your little one meet their full potential. We are able to use our training to help them with their movement, so they are able to fully participate around the home and with their families.

Get in touch today with any questions or concerns you may have regarding your child’s development!


References

Butera CD, Rhee C, Kelly CE, Dhollander T, Thompson DK, Wisnowski J, Molinini RM, Sargent B, Lepore N, Vorona G, Bessom D, Shall MS, Burnsed J, Stevenson RD, Brown S, Harper A, Hendricks-Muñoz KD, Dusing SC. Effect of a NICU to Home Physical Therapy Intervention on White Matter Trajectories, Motor Skills, and Problem-Solving Skills of Infants Born Very Preterm: A Case Series. J Pers Med. 2022 Dec 7;12(12):2024. doi: 10.3390/jpm12122024. PMID: 36556244; PMCID: PMC9784100.https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9784100/

 

Nwabara O, Rogers C, Inder T, Pineda R. Early Therapy Services Following Neonatal Intensive Care Unit Discharge. Phys Occup Ther Pediatr. 2017 Nov;37(4):414-424. doi: 10.1080/01942638.2016.1247937. Epub 2016 Dec 14. PMID: 27967287; PMCID: PMC5630140.https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5630140/

Butler AS, Behrman RE, editors. Preterm birth: causes, consequences, and prevention. Washington, DC: National Academy of Sciences; 2007. Mortality and acute complications in preterm infants; pp. 313–345

Cameron EC, Maehle V, Reid J. The effects of an early physical therapy intervention for very preterm, very low birth weight infants: a randomized controlled clinical trial. Pediatrics Physical Therapy. 2005;17(2):107–119.