Breastfeeding your premature baby: The dos and don’ts

Breastfeeding a premature baby can come with its set of different challenges. A neonatologist shares some tips to ease the journey for the mother and the baby.

baby slow weight gain
A good latch plays an important role in baby's weight gain. Image courtesy: Shutterstock
Dr Chetak. A.N Published on: 29 November 2022, 12:45 pm IST
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Having a baby comes up with a lot of responsibilities and challenges for parents. If you have a premature baby, it will add up to it as they require more care and support. Many mothers find themselves doubtful about taking care of their premature baby, especially when it comes to breastfeeding. Premature babies need to gain weight faster and need more nutrients than full term babies for growth. Their digestive system may not be fully developed depending upon how early your baby was born and how healthy they are. Such factors make it really complicated to take care of your baby. Breastfeeding a premature baby can be different and you need to have proper knowledge of what to do and what not to do.

What to do while breastfeeding a premature baby?

Whether you are breastfeeding or have decided to express milk, there are a few things that you need to know to make your sessions more effective. So, here are some tips on how to breastfeed a premature baby:

Feed often

Breastfeeding or expressing, mothers with premature babies are recommended to do it more often. Until about 32 weeks, babies can’t learn to swallow and suck breastmilk and their digestive system is not strong enough to take more milk at once. Also, expressing or breastfeeding more often is proven to increase breast milk production.

breastfeeding
Mother’s milk is helpful for growth and development. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

Use kangaroo care

Kangaroo care is a technique of holding a baby while maintaining skin-to-skin contact. It will make breastfeeding easier as mothers who do this tend to breastfeed their babies better than mothers who don’t.

Spend time with your baby

Sometimes, premature babies have to stay in the hospital for intense care and it is often the case that mothers don’t get enough time to spend with them. Even if they are tube feeding your baby, you still should make regular visits and ask if you can hold your baby.

Get informed

Feeding a premature baby might be a bit difficult and different from feeding a full-term baby. You need to educate yourself to deal better with the situation. You can try researching your case and also can ask doctors and experts in this area.

Also read: Premature babies: Tips to help in the growth and development of a preemie

premature baby
A premature baby will need extra TLC. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

Things you should avoid doing while breastfeeding a premature baby

Relying too much on tools

Sometimes, you need to rely on tools to feed your baby. Like if your baby isn’t able to suck or swallow, doctors recommend tube feeding but even while tube feeding, you have to slowly teach your baby to suck milk from your breast.

Supplementation

Relying too much on supplementation for breast milk production has always remained under question. Sometimes, mothers use supplements to increase breast milk and premature babies are also given supplements with breast milk to make up for the deficits. Mothers can go for natural ways to increase breastmilk through adding a few changes in their diet and eliminate the suspicion.

Not taking care of your diet

Your baby’s health is directly associated with your own health. Ignoring your own well-being at this time can come with consequences. Make sure that your meals are loaded with the nutrients you need to breastfeed a premature baby.

rainbow diet for brides
Eat a healthy and balanced diet! Image courtesy: Shutterstock

Avoid smoking or alcohol consumption

It should be obvious to quit smoking at the time when you are willing to have a family. Harmful chemicals that come with smoking in your body can pass down to your baby.

There is a lot to know and consider when you have a premature baby as they need more support than full-term babies. But with proper guidance, research and support, you can make it easier.

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About the Author
Dr Chetak. A.N Dr Chetak. A.N

Dr Chetak. A.N Senior Consultant - Pediatrician and Neonatologist Motherhood Hospitals, Bengaluru, Whitefield

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