Breastfeeding a premature baby – Tips to know
Newborn Care week (15 to 21st November)
Breastfeeding is one of the important factors for a newborn and the mother. Especially when it is a premature baby, introducing the baby to mother's breast milk takes a lot of effort. Breastfeeding can act as a shield to protect premature babies from most of the health issues they develop in the initial stages. If the baby is premature and accepts mother's milk, it helps in reducing problems like gut gangrene and infection thus aiding in quick recovery and early discharge.
Dr Anuradha Lokare, Consultant-OBG, Columbia Asia Hospital Hebbal, "Babies are considered to be pre-term if they are born before the 37th week of pregnancy. If the babies are delivered before 33 weeks, they are not strong enough to be breastfed thus keeping them away from the required nutrition. Until about 32 weeks, babies cannot coordinate sucking, swallowing and breathing during breast feed or bottle feed. The reflex of sucking and swallowing is established only after 34 weeks. Hence, mothers' need to extract the breast milk to feed the baby." It is important to understand that the feeding procedure could be different for different gestation period. Although breastfeeding a premature baby is not always easy, following these tips can help you get your preemie breastfeeding experience off to a good start.
Pump it and save it
Premature babies can't always nurse effectively. The mother has to pump the milk which will then be fed to the babies through the feeding tube.
Child delivery can be an overwhelming experience. However, trying to pump the breast milk within a few hours of delivery is important for the better breastfeeding outcome. Also, it is crucial to pump the milk often as the baby needs frequent feeding. Preemie moms may have to pump milk about 8 times a day.
Read about breastfeeding
Although breastfeeding is a natural process, it may not come naturally for all. Therefore, it is crucial to read about breastfeeding and also consulting the lactation consultant. They will help the preemie mom to breastfeed effectively. The first drops of milk which is secreted is called the colostrums which is rich in antibodies and is important to feed it to the baby .Skin to skin contact
Irrespective of the birth weight, skin to skin contact of the mother and baby helps in ensuring warmth and aids in initiation of breastfeeding.
Feeding from the breast
Once the premature baby is more than 34 weeks of gestational age, while holding the baby, they may try to move towards the breast. As they grow stronger, these babies can be breast fed directly. In this stage breastfeeding and tube feeding can be combined.