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WakeMed Blogs

World Prematurity Day is November 17

November 14, 2019

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), every year an estimated 15 million infants worldwide are born preterm (over 3 weeks early). 

The Global Challenge of Preterm Birth

Preterm birth affects families in every country. While more than 80 percent of preterm births occur in Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, the problem is universal. In fact, the United States ranks among the top 10 countries with the highest number of preterm births (source: EFCNI).

Preterm Birth in North Carolina 

March of Dimes reports that in 2018, 1 in 10 babies (10.4% of live births) was born preterm in North Carolina, resulting in a total of 12,340 preterm births in North Carolina.  Rates of preterm birth in North Carolina are highest for black infants (13.8%), followed by American Indian/Alaska Natives (11.9%), whites (9.3%), Hispanics (8.9%) and Asian/Pacific Islanders (8.6%).

About World Prematurity Day

Celebrated internationally on November 17th, World Prematurity Day (WPD) acknowledges the journeys of preterm infants and their families as well as raises awareness of the challenges faced by children born preterm and their families. This is ever so important as the incidence of preterm birth, worldwide, is increasing rapidly.

Sadly, the complications of preterm birth are among the leading causes of death in children under five. All infants born preterm require immediate and significant medical care posing unexpected challenges – emotional and financial – to their parents and family system. (source: NIDCAP Federation International)

Socks for Life

For the first World Prematurity Day, the European Foundation for the Care of Newborn Infants (EFCNI) wanted to raise awareness, so they used a sock line to do so. One out of ten pairs of socks were “preemie” socks. EFCNI encouraged people to hang the sock line randomly about – in hospitals, across village streets, on trees – all random occurrences, just like premature births.

Purple is the symbolic color of WPD representing sensitivity and individuality, two of the characteristics of the premature infant.

How WakeMed is Celebrating World Prematurity Day

WakeMed joins NIDCAP Federation International, EFCNI, and other organizations across the world in raising awareness of the frequency and challenges of prematurity. In our NICU and Special Care Nurseries, we aim to decrease stress for babies and their families, nurture developing infant-parent relationships, and get to know and care for each baby as a sensitive and unique person.

WakeMed will be inviting families in the NICU to hang a sock in honor of their baby on a clothes line in the family room if they would like. We will be offering purple treats to NICU families and staff to acknowledge World Prematurity Day.

WakeMed is a Certified NIDCAP Nursery

Newborn Individualized Developmental Care and Assessment Program (NIDCAP) supports development, enhances strengths and minimizes stress for infants, family and staff who care for them. It is individualized and uses a relationship-based, family-integrated approach that yields measurable outcomes.

Laurie K. Slaughter, PT, NIDCAP Professional elaborates:

NIDCAP is the gold standard for family centered developmentally supportive care.  NIDCAP supports parent and staff to understand the voice of the newborn so we can pause or adapt care, moment-by-moment, based on the infant’s behavioral cues. This back and forth relationship between the infant and parent (or staff) helps to build trusting relationships.   One of the most nurturing and safe places for preterm infants is on mom or dad’s chest in skin to skin holding, so we encourage parents to hold this way frequently.

You Can Help Premature Babies. Here’s How.

If you are concerned about the issue of premature birth and want to make a difference, consider making a donation to the WakeMed NICU via the WakeMed Foundation.

Under the drop-down list for “Designation,” select Neonatal/Intensive Care Nursery. We encourage you to join in the worldwide celebration and honoring of these babies and their families.

Consider donating through the March of Dimes or the NIDCAP Federation International (NFI).


About the WakeMed NICU Team

WakeMed’s NICU team includes two certified NIDCAP Professionals: Jenifer Powell, PhD, Pediatric Psychologist, and Laurie K. Slaughter, Physical Therapist, who support implementation of NIDCAP care.  Jim Helm, PhD, Senior NIDCAP Trainer with over 30 years of service to WakeMed’s NICU, is the Director of the Carolina NIDCAP Training Center at WakeMed, and he provides ongoing consultation and training for our team.