Did you know that there are special breastfeeding benefits for preemie babies? As with any new baby, moms wish the best for their development and growth, but in the case of premature babies – a little extra attention is needed during their first years.
You may have heard that preemies are too fragile to respond or benefit from breastfeeding – but this common thought couldn’t be further from the truth. Breast milk is the perfect recipe for their growth, development and improvement.
Why Breastfeed Preemie Babies?
The nutritional, emotional, and health benefits associated with breastfeeding is the simply the best for premature infants. Not only do breastfed babies receive protection against infection, but also numerous studies have revealed that premature infants suffer fewer intestinal complications, develop higher IQ’s, and reach full feedings at a faster rate than their non-breastfed peers.
While some moms might worry that breastfeeding causes harm or is difficult for a preemie, the truth is that the process of breastfeeding is actually far less stressful than bottle feedings.
In fact, experts now say that even the tiniest of premature babies should get breast milk while they are in a hospital’s ICU because it boosts their overall mental development. Preemie babies given breast milk score higher on intelligence tests given to them when they are older.
When to Start
Most preemies are sickly and before being breastfed, they need to reach an acceptable medical state.
Prior to breastfeeding your baby, he or she must be able to accept feeding by gavage (using a tube) and have the ability to suck well on a finger or pacifier. These conditions are different for every baby regardless of their weight or age.
The Advantages of Pre-term Breast Milk
You milk is better for your baby. It is exactly what they need most!
Many premature mothers are left unaware that during the first weeks of their delivery – their breast milk possesses a higher amount of protein, potassium, sodium, and chloride than mothers who deliver their babies at full term. The fat found in the milk is also easier for babies to digest.
Breastfeeding a Preemie
Before your baby can breastfeed, you will probably have to pump your milk. During this first phase, breast milk is expressed and fed to your baby through a tube that passes directly into the stomach. When your baby is ready to enter the second phase, your baby will be ready to feed from both the breast and a second method if needed.
Holding a Preemie to the Breast
Holding a premature baby during a session of breastfeeding is often complicated, as the smaller size of the infant poses a couple of problems. It is suggested to use pillows and your hands to support your preemie. (For more active preemies, the addition of swaddling helps.)
In order for a premature baby to latch onto the breast and begin sucking, a little assistance from mom is needed. Doctors also suggest that you familiarize yourself with the signals your baby gives off when they are tired. This keeps both baby and mother from becoming worn out and stressed during feedings.
Breast milk is the best thing for a preemie babies. No other substance or product can provide exactly what your preemie needs. Breast milk is important to these little ones. It is their best chance to grow into big healthy kids!
Need More Support or a Friend who has Been There?
Try joining one of the “Preemie Mom” or “NICU Moms” at CafeMom.com. These moms have gone through or are going through the same thing as you. Sometimes it helps to share each others burdens and joys. These groups are very active and can give great support to moms of preemies. Click here to join today. IT’S FREE.