Tips for Breast Feeding Preemies

by Sam Malone


Premature babies or infants who are born before their due date usually require extensive special care. If you have a premature baby, he may be placed in intensive care, where his tiny body is hooked up to tubes and monitors that help him breathe. Unfortunately, you may not be allowed to hold or even touch your baby because of the high risks of infections. However, this does not mean that your little one will be deprived of his mother's milk. Breast milk is an excellent source of nutrition for all children, especially premature babies. After a premature delivery, the milk that is produced by your body is ideally suited to the special requirements of your little one. Babies that arrive early may not have a well-developed digestive system, due to which they cannot process formula milk. Breast milk will help your baby's digestive system to mature and fight off any infections.

If your baby is born after 32 weeks of gestation, he may be able to latch on and get milk directly. However, in case your baby has not completed 32 weeks of gestation, you may need to express your milk in order to feed him through a tube. Breastfeeding preemies is not always an easy task, but given below are a few tips that may be useful:

  • Extract Milk as Early and often as Possible: In order to ensure that you get a good supply of milk, you need to start expressing it as soon as possible, preferably within 6 hours of giving birth. Your little one will not be able to consume a lot of milk at a time and so he will need to be fed more often. For a healthy milk supply, try to extract your milk at least 8 times a day, for about 5 to 10 minutes. Express your milk every 2 to 3 hours during the day and 3 to 4 hours during the night.
  • Use a Good Breast Pump: Most hospitals supply moms with a medical grade breast pump. However, if you'd like to use your own pump, look for a full size electric pump. During the early pumping sessions, work with a lactation specialist to increase your milk supply.
  • Follow Kangaroo Care: The technique of skin-to-skin contact between a mother (or father) and a premature baby is known as kangaroo care. According to the World Health Organization (WHO) this technique can help make breastfeeding easier for you as well as your little one.
  • Hold your Baby during Feeds: If your baby is very weak and frail, the healthcare provider may need to place him in an incubator and feed him through a tube. Ask your doctor if you can just hold your baby while he is being tube-fed, so that your little one starts associating you with his food.
  • Eat Well: All the nutrients present in your body find their way to your baby, through your breast milk. In order to increase your baby's intake of essential vitamins and minerals, make sure that you consume a high amount of nutrient-rich foods.
  • Relax: The early arrival of a baby can be a major source for stress and concern for just about any mother. However, excess stress can have an adverse effect on the supply of your milk and can deprive your baby of his much-needed sustenance. To avoid this, learn to keep your mind calm and get an adequate amount of sleep and rest during the day.

While these tips on breastfeeding preemies are quite safe and effective if practiced correctly, speak to your doctor, before trying any of them.

In case you have given birth to premature twins, your body will probably need to produce more milk than normal. If your body is unable to produce the adequate amount, speak with your healthcare provider about the issue.

References:

  1. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12219324
  2. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20139377

Warning: The reader of this article should exercise all precautionary measures while following instructions on the home remedies from this article. Avoid using any of these products if you are allergic to it. The responsibility lies with the reader and not with the site or the writer.
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