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Physical Therapy Could Help With Preemie Development

DENVER (CBS4)- Physical therapy is common for those recovering from a sports or traumatic injury, but now the practice is being used to help with development of preemies.

Babies born prematurely are getting help catching up after missing some important development in the womb.

Preemie physical therapy is being used by University of Colorado Hospital Physical Therapist Elizabeth Black.

"Getting her to be calm, relaxed, reduce stress, all those things help promote growth," said Black.

Poppy Brown was 12 days old on Tuesday. She was born six weeks early and weighed just three pounds and nine ounces on her last weigh-in. She is staying in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at the University of Colorado Hospital.

Poppy's mom, Stacy Fairbanks, is learning how to carefully encourage Poppy's development.

"We want to see her preparing to eat, we don't want to be reliant on her tubes," said Black.

Premature babies aren't just underweight, they are born before crucial physical development is completed in the womb.

"In the belly they are constantly moving around, they are exploring their own bodies, they are pushing off their mom's rib cage or bladder and all of that develops strength, it develops a sense of their own bodies and space. It develops bones," said Black.

For the past 45 years at the University of Colorado Hospital therapists have been nudging their tiniest patients to help develop muscle tone by flexing their legs and moving their heads as much as the baby would in utero. They combine that with much-needed calm.

"If there's anyway we can decrease her risk or make it so that she has fewer challenges further down the line then I'm happy to do that work now," said Fairbanks.

It may be the magic touch that will give Poppy the best start possible.

The hope is that the therapy helps preemies catch up to accomplish developmental milestones such as rolling over, crawling and sitting up.

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