Breastfeeding is vital for both full-term and premature babies. However, for premature babies, breastfeeding is the best way to provide them with the special care and attention they need for proper growth and development.
Breast milk is more easy for the baby to digest than formula, and it’s more compatible with your baby’s delicate stomach. Breast milk also boosts your baby’s immune-system and helps them fight infections, which is something premature babies are particularly vulnerable to.Your breast milk also contains antibodies as well as essential minerals and vitamins which help a preemie stay healthy and grow strong.
There may be times when you’re not able to meet your baby’s milk demands, but it’s important to not give up breastfeeding. Persevering will improve your milk production.Your premature baby will likely not latch on right after birth so may need to be fed with a tube, but even so, rather than giving them formula you should use breast milk as early as possible.
Start expressing breast milk right away:
Ideally start within 24hrs of giving birth. This will help you establish a healthy milk supply. At the start when you begin to express, you will produce a thick yellowish substance called colostrum, which is nutritiously dense and helps the baby’s growth.
Use breast pumps or massage your breasts:
Somehow you will need to start the breast milk flow and either massaging or using a pump works for this. Once your milk is flowing you can start expressing milk using a breast pump. These can be either manual or electric, obviously the electric ones are less work. Manual pumps can be quite tiring at a time when you may not have loads of energy anyway. Using a pump regularly can help to improve your breast milk supply. Massaging your breasts stimulates it to produce more milk. Consult a lactation expert to learn how you can massage your breasts. We have links to some breast pumps on our products page.
Breastfeed as often as you can:
Make sure you feed your premature baby at least six to eight times per day. The gap between feeding should not be more than six hours.
Provide plenty of skin-to-skin contact:
This is called “Kangaroo care” and basically this is just about the baby spending time resting on your bare chest. It improves baby’s circulation, keeps them warm and increases chances of natural breastfeeding, as well as strengthening the bond between you.
Express extra milk even while you’re breastfeeding:
It’s essential to keep expressing milk in between feeds to improve your breast milk supply. Expressing more often signals your brain to increase the milk production.
During their first few days, your premature baby will likely be fed through a tube but it is necessary to offer your breasts for the baby to learn how to suckle. Doing so will help your baby get used to the breastfeeding naturally. Even once the baby gets used to suckling, they might take just a little bit, since premature babies get tired so quickly. Stay with it and carry on feeding your baby naturally as often as they will take it. Your constant support and continuous breastfeeding can help your baby develop better.
Good luck, and please feel free to leave questions or comments below 🙂