Breastfeeding a premature baby presents its own set of unique challenges. Nonetheless, the nutrition that breastfeeding provides to preemies is absolutely essential, which means that it's critical for moms of these babies to succeed at nursing.
Try all of these tips to ensure your best chances of success when breastfeeding a premature baby.
Babies who are born too early may not be able to effectively feed at the breast. This means that mom will have to become adept at pumping right from the start.
Additionally, some premature babies will not be ready for bottle feeding. This means that they receive their mother's breast milk through a feeding tube.
This is because the ability to suck, swallow and breathe in coordination doesn't really develop until about 32 weeks. Babies who are born before this period are unlikely to be able to successfully bottle feed.
Because of these limitations, it is crucial for mom to start pumping early, to keep doing so often and to ensure that she is maximizing production.
When your baby arrives much earlier than expected, it can leave you feeling shocked and unprepared. You expected to have at least a few more weeks to get ready, and your baby's delicate condition is certainly concerning.
At a time like this, you probably aren't primarily focused on pumping breast milk. However, it is critical that you make time for this task.
If you begin pumping as soon as possible after giving birth, it helps you to establish an adequate milk supply. Moms who begin pumping or breastfeeding earlier tend to have better overall outcomes with breastfeeding.
Experts suggest that it is wise to begin the first pumping session within six hours of delivering the baby.
It similarly is wise to keep in mind how often newborns need to eat. To meet this need, it is essential for moms of premature babies to frequently use their pump. A good goal to aim for is eight pumping sessions for each 24-hour period. That means an average of pumping every two or three hours during the day and approximately every three to four hours overnight.
When moms give birth to premature babies, most hospitals will provide them with a medical-grade breast pump. Using this top-of-the-line pump will ensure that you maximize the amount of milk that you extract with each session.
If you will be buying your own pump, then look for one that is fully electric, full size and offers high-grade quality.
Learn More About Breastfeeding
Breastfeeding is the healthiest, most natural way to feed your baby, but that does not necessarily mean that breastfeeding is easy. That is especially true when your infant arrives prematurely.
Accordingly, the more that you learn about breastfeeding, the easier your journey is likely to be.
If your pregnancy is considered high risk or if your doctor otherwise tells you that you may want to be ready for an early delivery, then it makes sense to learn more about breastfeeding and proactively look for sources of support.
For instance, you may want to read books about breastfeeding. This includes not only more general works about breastfeeding but also books that are more specifically about premature babies. One highly recommended option is The Premature Baby Book from the Sears Parenting Library.
Further, it may be sensible to meet with a lactation consultant even before you give birth. This provides you with an opportunity to find a lactation consultant with whom you feel a genuine connection. She can give you all sorts of tips and advice so that you'll be prepared when your baby arrives.
Even more importantly, she'll be immediately ready to support you as soon as your baby arrives.
Many moms of premature babies also join a support group like the La Leche League. This international support group is free to join, and it's operated by specialists who have extensive training and experience with breastfeeding support. This includes support for moms of premature babies, so you will find plenty of useful resources here.
Be Ready to Spend Additional Time with Your Baby
It is an unfortunate fact that the NICU that is closest to your home may be many miles from where you live. This can be really upsetting since you want to spend as much time as possible with your baby.
Unfortunately, separation can be detrimental to your milk supply. Whenever you have the opportunity to be with your baby, it makes sense to make the most of your time. This helps to establish your milk supply, and it can even make the transition from feeding through a tube to breastfeeding a little easier.
Use these ideas to strengthen your bond with your baby:
- Use kangaroo care
- Be certain to visit during feedings
- Ask to hold your baby during feedings
- Ask if it is possible to participate in baths and diaper changes
- Look into hospital resources for moms of premature babies
Most of these ideas are relatively self-explanatory. However, you might be less familiar with the concept of kangaroo care.
Basically, this is the practice of keeping skin-to-skin contact with your baby. Moms who try kangaroo care tend to have a better supply of milk. It's also true that babies who receive kangaroo care tend to breastfeed with more success.
It doesn't even have to be mom that provides kangaroo care. Any loved one or caregiver can provide the needed skin-to-skin contact.
Why Breast Milk Is Critical for Preemies
Breast milk is the ideal food for all babies, but especially for premature infants. That's because it includes things like:
- A variety of vitamins and minerals
- Milk fat
Before birth, babies receive factors like DHA, which helps for development of the eyes and brain, and an antibody known as immunoglobulin G through the placenta. When babies arrive prematurely, they do not receive as much of these factors as they require before birth.
Accordingly, mom's breast milk tends to contain extra fat and immunoglobulin when baby arrives early when compared to the breast milk of the mother of a full-term infant.
It also is critical to understand that premature babies have gastrointestinal tracts that have not fully matured. This may mean that they have problems with absorbing nutrients and digestion difficulties. Fortunately, breast milk contains additional enzymes that help to ease digestion. There's also an epidermal growth factor contained in breast milk that helps with maturation of the baby's intestines.
In fact, breast milk is so critical to the health of premature babies that donor milk may be used instead of formula if mom is not able to produce enough breast milk.
Better Outcomes with Breast Milk
With every nursing session, your baby receive protective agents in your breast milk. These agents protect him against serious conditions to which preemies are particularly susceptible. Accordingly, your breast milk may help your premature baby avoid retinopathy of prematurity, a severe infection, or a chronic lung disease such as bronchopulmonary dysplasia.
Premature babies who do not receive enough breast milk may be at greater risk for developing sepsis and necrotizing enterocolitis. Moreover, they tend to stay in the hospital an average of two weeks longer than premature babies who receive plenty of breast milk.
Premature babies who primarily eat mom's breast milk similarly are less likely to be re-admitted to the hospital, and they get longer term advantages like improved physical and mental development.
Ensure Your Breast Milk Supply
Giving birth to a preemie can be extremely distressing. There are many things to worry about, and many important considerations are competing for your attention.
However, one of the best things that you can do for your premature baby is to ensure that you have an adequate supply of breast milk.
Are you concerned that you won't have enough breast milk for your premature baby? If so, then take a look at the all-natural, organic teas and supplements that are readily available through Euphoric Herbals. Each product is formulated to stimulate and maintain your supply of breast milk while also ensuring that your immune system is strong.
Browse our offerings today to ensure a brighter tomorrow for your infant.