Corrected age: what is it?
Corrected age, or adjusted age, is your premature baby’s chronological age minus the number of weeks or months early they were born.
For example, a 1-year-old who was born 3 months early would have a corrected age of 9 months.
Why corrected age is important
Corrected age can help if you’re trying to work out whether your premature baby’s development is tracking in a typical way. For example, if someone notices that your baby is 6 months old but not sitting up yet, you could explain that your baby was born 3 months early. If you look at your baby’s corrected age, they’re really only 3 months old and they’re doing everything a 3-month-old usually does.
Corrected age is most relevant during your child’s early years, because it might explain things that look like delays in development in these years.
If you’re giving your child a first birthday party, you should celebrate their birthday one year from when they were born, regardless of corrected age!
How corrected age affects different areas of growth and development
All children have variations in growth and development, regardless of whether they were premature or born at term.
Being premature can affect different areas of growth and development differently. Some areas might not be affected at all, whereas others could be greatly affected. Using your baby’s corrected age for growth is particularly important.
Who to tell about your child’s corrected age
It’s a good idea to tell early childhood educators, preschool teachers, health professionals and anyone who cares for or works with your child that your child was born prematurely. These people will probably also find it useful to know how many weeks early your child was born.
If you’re worried about learning or developmental problems after your child starts school, it will help school teachers to know that your child was born early.
There isn’t a set age when you should stop correcting a child’s age for prematurity. But most health professionals recommend correcting at least until your child is 2 years old.
How corrected age affects your child’s play and interactions
You might notice that other babies of the same chronological age can do more than your premature baby when they play and interact with you and others. But if you think in terms of corrected age, you might find that what your child can do is just right for their age.
Like all children, your premature child will learn from having plenty of different things to play with, do and see – for example, being read to, going out to the park and playing with other children.
All these different and stimulating experiences help your child’s brain to develop.
Corrected age and starting child care, preschool or school
Your child might start preschool and school based on their chronological age, not their corrected age.
But a few months in age can make a difference to what a child can do and what they’re expected to do, especially at preschool. Some parents of premature children decide to delay school for a year, if their child’s corrected age is just below school entry age. This can give your child extra time to catch up in growth and develop the social skills they need for preschool and school.
If your child is assessed for any development delay, you can ask for the test results to be scored at both your child’s corrected and chronological ages.
When to have immunisations
Premature babies generally get the same immunisations at the same chronological age as babies born at term. Premature babies need the protection of immunisation because they’re more likely to get some infections.
If your baby was very premature, they might get their first immunisations while they’re still in hospital. They might also need an extra dose of some vaccines when they’re older.
It’s best to speak to your child’s GP or paediatrician about your child’s immunisation needs.