World Breastfeeding Week 2021- Breastfeeding A Premature Baby, Guide To Mothers

Premature babies are required to be treated differently and therefore, breastfeeding them is also different. Here is a guide.

Chanchal Sengar
Written by: Chanchal SengarUpdated at: Aug 05, 2021 13:23 IST
World Breastfeeding Week 2021- Breastfeeding A Premature Baby, Guide To Mothers

We all know about the fact that how important breastfeeding is for the mother as well as the child. Milk provided by the mother is the main source of nourishment for an infant. Breast milk provides all the nutrients, vitamins, minerals, antibodies, and immune factors that the baby needs. The milk is also customized according to the child’s needs by the mother’s body. Isn’t it brilliant how the mother’s body detects what the child needs just by the touch of the baby? The saliva that meets the mother’s body detects what the baby’s body’s requirement is at the time and the milk is tailored according to that. 

How to Breastfeed a Premature Baby?

How to Breastfeed a Premature Baby

We do know that a mother can easily provide milk to a baby who has been born to term, but what about the babies who are born prematurely? Many people have this question as many premature babies are taken into the NICU (neonatal intensive care unit) and are worried if it is safe to breastfeed them. Dr. Ananya Nema, Consultant Physiotherapist at Motherhood Hospitals, Indore says, there is no need to worry as it is completely safe. The best source of nourishment even for a premature baby is mother’s milk. Even if the baby is unable to latch on the breast, the mother’s milk is provided through spoon-feeding. Even for a premature baby, breastfeeding must be initiated as soon as possible as the baby’s body requires that energy and nourishment for better and faster growth and development of the body and other bodily functions. 

Also Read: 7 Important Tips For New Parents To Take Care Of A Premature Baby

Breastfeed a Premature Baby

Here are a few things one must know about breastfeeding a premature baby:

  • Mother’s milk is extremely important, especially for a pre-term baby
  • Most of the time pre-term babies are unable to have milk directly as their ability to suck and swallow is not fully developed, so they are provided with the milk through spoon-feeding or sometimes through tube feeding.
  • Most people feel that expressing breast milk is not that important, however expressing breast milk is important to increase your breast milk production. It is a skill that needs to be acquired and will come only with practice. 
  • One type of breastfeeding for a pre-term baby is the ‘kangaroo style’. There is a baby tucker which holds the baby near the mother’s belly just like kangaroos do. This way the mother can focus on breastfeeding and not on holding the baby, and in addition to that, the baby stays warm as well. 
Breastfeeding a Premature Baby
  • Do not be disheartened if your baby is unable to drink or swallow milk as that will affect your baby as well. It is complex process. Your baby might only be able to have small amounts in one sitting as he or she may get tired. So, you need to make it a point not to give up. 
  • At times the doctors may have to add extra nutrients/proteins in the milk you express as the baby’s requirement may be such and your milk may not have the appropriate number of proteins. 
  • The best time for a mother to express her milk through the breast pump is after she has had long skin-on-skin contact with the baby, as that activates the breast milk reflex, and the mother can pump more easily and effectively.
  • For a good breast milk production, a mother needs to be stress free, maintain adequate hydration, and may take supplements after consulting her doctor. 

There are numerous ways to feed your preterm baby with the milk, like through cotton buds soaked with your milk, small syringes that transfer your milk into the mouth, a dropper filled with breast milk or spoon feeding but the way to follow is asking your baby’s pediatrician what is best for the baby and going along that path.

Just remember the journey may look difficult at the start, you may have to face obstacles in your path, but the end result will be satisfying and worth the wait. Be patient, keep trying and keep going for your baby.

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