6 Tips for Breastfeeding a Premature Baby

Bringing home a new baby is one of the most exciting, as well as the most stressful times for any new parent. This exciting and scary situation is only heightened if you are bringing home a premature baby.

Premature babies are categorized as babies born before 37 weeks of gestation. Depending on were in gestation your baby is born, they may need a bit more help then full-term babies. Breast milk is the perfect way to give your baby that much-needed boost.

Did you know that the breast milk produced for a premature baby is different than that produced for a full-term baby? Premature mother’s breast milk produces more DHA, magnesium, iron, and higher concentrations of immune-boosting factors.

Breastfeeding is very important for your premature baby, even if you didn’t intend to breastfeed your baby while pregnant, breastfeeding your premature baby is beneficial to their growth and development.

A few of the amazing things breast milk can give and provide for your baby.

  • Breast milk is complete nutrition for your baby.
  • Colostrum, that first milk, helps to jump-start your baby’s gut, reducing chances of jaundice.
  • It’s specific to your baby, adjusting itself to cater to your baby’s needs.
  • Breast milk is easier to digest than formula.
  • Breastfed babies tend to gain less unnecessary weight.
  • Breastfed children experience fewer illnesses as children.
  • Breast milk passes mom’s immunity on to the baby. You are increasing your baby’s protection against diseases like Diphtheria, Tetanus, and Polio.
  • Premature babies that are breastfed develop faster and healthier than those fed formula.

Things that can help you and your premature baby have a successful feeding session.

1. Skin-to-Skin Contact

Also known as Kangaroo care, skin-to-skin contact is especially important for the development of premature baby’s. Not only is it a way to bond with your baby, but it also helps to regulate their temperature. You are a familiar place for your baby, so placing them on your skin will help to calm them down.

Use this one on one time to let your baby practice attaching to your breast.

2. Expressing

When your baby is young, it’s very important to express your milk. This helps to maintain and develop your milk supply. Premature babies aren’t as strong as full-term babies, so that they won’t feed as long. Expressing your milk at least eight times in 24 hours will give your baby a jump-start until they can do it themselves.

3. Breast milk banks

Suppose you aren’t able to produce enough milk. Look into the Human Milk Banking Association of North America. This wonderful association is a national breast milk bank designed for moms that can’t produce milk for their premature baby’s.

4. Breast Introduction

Depending on how premature your baby is, it may take them a little while to understand the concept of breastfeeding. Early skin-to-skin contact is a great way to practice positioning and attachment from the very beginning. Allow your baby to suckle; even if they aren’t swallowing, this will help develop your milk, as well as get your baby practice.

Don’t rush into the introduction; premature babies cannot nurse for long periods, or sometimes not at all. It’s not uncommon for a premie to fall asleep while breastfeeding; the exercise fatigues their little bodies quickly. Instead, try small rounds of breastfeeding 2-3 times a day and expressing and pumping your milk before or after the sessions.

5. Positioning

Each baby and mom have different ways that work best for them. So, as soon as your doctor permits it, start practicing nursing positions with your baby. There are many great nursing positions; below, we’ll talk about a few.

If you are still struggling, consult a lactation consultant, they can help guide you for successful feeding.

  • Cross-Cradle Hold

    • This position is the most commonly used. It’s also one of the best positions for first-time breastfeeders.
  • Cradle Hold

    • This position is very similar to the cross-cradle hold. However, you support your baby with the arm on the same side as your baby is nursing.
  • Football Hold

    • The football hold is the perfect position for women recovering from c-sections. This hold doesn’t place your baby right on sensitive recovering areas.
  • Side-Lying Hold

    • This position is very common for night feedings. It’s also a great position for c-section recovery.

For more on positions, as well as full description and pictures of each described position, check out this website.

6. Nipple Shield

Because premature babies haven’t developed their full sucking ability, using a nipple shield will help with getting the right attachment. The right attachment has a lot of benefits for both you and baby. For one, it will help with milk production. Also, it will help reduce the pain and pressure from over-full breast.

Once your baby has developed a better ability to nurse, a lactation consultant can help you wean them off the shield completely.

Breastfeeding isn’t only beneficial to your premature baby. It also has amazing for moms.

  • Breastfeeding burns calories, making it easier to drop those leftover pregnancy pounds.
  • Exclusively breastfeeding delays normal ovulation and menstrual cycles.
  • Breastfeeding your child reduces the chances of developing breast and ovarian cancer.
  • Breastfeeding can save you time and money, the formula is very expensive, and you won’t have baby bottles cluttering up your dishwasher.
  • Moms can calm their babies quicker by providing them abreast whenever and wherever they are hungry.
  • Breastfeeding is an amazing way to bond with your baby.