Will I be able to breastfeed my preemie? This is a common thought that engulfs mothers whose babies are born prematurely. Needless to mention that mother’s milk is the best gift you can give to your newborn baby. This sole food supplement fulfills all the nutritional requirements for your newborn. However, premature babies are different. Considering the thought that a premature baby is more sensitive and delicate than a normal healthy newborn, your worry is a genuine one. Well, you must be happy to learn that breastfeeding a preemie is the best way to help him grow faster and in a healthy way.
Breast Milk for Nursing a Premature Baby
Sometimes, mothers worry about lactating enough or adequate milk that is sufficient to feed their premature babies. You should not worry about this, as your body would naturally produce breast milk as soon as your baby is born. You must not be tensed to feed the little one when your doctor allows you to do so. Remember that breast milk is the best nutritional supplement your preemie could have. This will provide your baby with the required vitamins, proteins and calories, which are essential for faster development. Therefore, you can go ahead with nursing your preemie when you or the baby does not have any particular restriction. Studies on premature babies establish that preemies are more prone to several types of infections due to their weak immune system. Feeding your child helps to build their stamina and resistance power that protects against any possible infection after birth.
Formula Food for Nursing Preemies
A number of ready-to-use formula foods are available for infants. Mothers, who cannot breastfeed, can easily take help of these supplements that provide preemies with necessary antibodies and protective elements. However, they do not have the upper-hand over breastfeeding. While discussing the fact that mother’s milk is ideal and unparalleled for a newborn, one has to consider the suitability of breastfeeding when it comes to preemies.
Tips for Feeding a Preemie
Feed your preemie early, often and well:
For those of you who have preemies, breastfeeding right away would be difficult. Until completion of 32 weeks, the baby is not able to swallow, suck, breathe and coordinate well for either breast or bottle feed. If the babies who are less than 37 weeks are not too strong for food intake through their mouth, it is essential for mothers to feed their preemies through a feeding tube.
- Pump early: It is advisable to pump as early as possible, ideally 6 hours after the birth of your preemie. This helps in establishing a better supply of milk in your breasts and consequently, leads to better quality of milk.
- Pump often: Try to pump as much as you can in order to express good quantity of milk. Plan a pumping schedule of at least 8 times a day, every 2-3 hours.
- Pump well: Hospitals usually have breast pumps that are helpful while feeding preemies. Make sure you consult a lactation specialist during your early pumping sessions, so it is easier to express milk without any hassles.
It is vital that you stay informed about the ways of breastfeeding, so you are well aware of the complications involved. Read relevant books and search the Internet to know more about feeding preemies. Also, learn the best breastfeeding techniques beneficial for your little one, from your lactation consultant.
Spend Quality Time with your Newborn
Many new mothers find it hard to stay away from their newborn, who is in the NICU. However, it is vital that you spend time with him, and establish a mother-child connection right from early hours of birth.
Practice kangaroo care, which is a method of holding the preemie in skin-to-skin contact with you or another close figure. In the kangaroo care method, the baby is completely undressed and kept on the parent’s bare chest. The baby is covered with a blanket for added comfort and warmth.
Another way is to be around him during his feedings and diaper changes. Most preemies need to sleep so that they develop well. However, they will have wet diapers and will require proper feedings. So get hold of his daily schedule from nurses and try to be around when this happens.