Successfully Breast Feeding Your Premature Baby

Getting off to a good start breast feeding yourpremature baby can be difficult. But with someeducation and planning it can be done succesfully.

Successfully being able to breastfeed your premature baby depends on both your commitment and your baby's health and outlook after leaving the hospital.

The best way to get off to a good start is to start pumping your breastmilk right after delivering your premature baby. The first few days after birth provide the colostrum your baby needs to fight infection and this is critical for preterm babies born prior to 37 weeks gestation. Their immune systems are not fully developed and they need any extra boost they can get.

Depending on how early your baby was, you may or may not be able to give him or her your breastmilk. Some babies need to wait until they mature a little more. In that case, you only need to store your milk in a freezer, which most every NICU has. If breastmilk is expected to be used within a few days, a couple days in the refrigerator will suffice.



While your baby is in the hospital, keeping up with a pumping schedule is crucial. Every two to three hours you should pump both your breasts and store the milk where provided in the NICU. Even at night, you need to wake up every few hours like you would if you had a newborn at home. Nighttime pumping is essential to building a healthy milk supply.

If at all possible, avoid bottles in the NICU and try to have your baby finger-fed with a small tube attached to your finger which supplies your milk from a syringe. As your baby sucks on a finger they receive your breastmilk.

As soon as your baby is able to nurse in your arms, do it. The sooner the better for your baby. And once you can keep up that routine as well. A baby is much more effective at getting milk from your breasts than a pump is. You will find that you may express only a small amount when pumping but that your baby gains better once he or she is nursing at the breast.

Once your baby is discharged to go home from the hospital, you may still need to pump if your are still building your milk supply. And if your baby needs to wean off bottles for some reason, just take it slow and don't rush. Even if your baby cannot nurse exclusively from the breast for awhile, the fact that your preemie is getting your milk is what really counts.

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