Diapers for premature babies from Huggies and Pampers have been on the market for years. But even those were too large for some infants.
“The biggest issue is size and protecting the skin,” said Dr. Valencia Walker, medical director for the UCLA Medical Center, Santa Monica neonatal intensive care unit. “The skin of a preterm infant is a little bit more fragile than a full-term infant. So you really want to try and keep that skin dry.
“Babies that are in the NICU are already at increased risk for infection, and any type of skin breakdown will contribute to increasing their risk for infection.”
The specific design and materials of the tiny diapers allow for better protection and comfortable movement. Premature babies have less muscle tone, and the larger diapers do not allow the smaller legs and hips of a preterm baby to rest and move in the correct positions, Walker said.
“People often forget that even though these babies are born early, they’re still babies, and they’re still active,” Walker said. “We have to consider all of those things while we are trying to do things to help them stay alive.
“We have to do things to help them be babies and to help them develop appropriately.”