If you are a mother of a premature baby, I want to take this time out to say be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. I want you to trust in God and ask Him to help you to be strong for your baby. Ask Him to heal your baby because by His stripes we are healed. (1 Peter 2:24). Prepare yourself for a journey that will pass. The first few days after birth can be daunting. But fear not , take one day at a time.
Breastmilk has for many years been lifesaving for little precious humans. Some health care providers have been concerned that fragile premature infants might be infected by bacteria in breast milk or by contact with the breastfeeding mother. However, a 2011 study (4) examined such concerns and determined that there was no correlation between finding bacteria in breast milk and the baby developing an infection. There was also no relationship between skin-to-skin contact with the baby and infection rates. They strongly advised against culturing the mother’s milk for bacteria before feeding, describing this as not a useful practice.
Why Are Breastfeeding Rates So Low Globally?
It is known that breastfeeding in babies still remains pretty low globally , and partly to blame are hospital routines that often make it difficult for mothers to establish milk production and get the baby latching well. It is often common practice to schedule feedings and some require babies to be drinking from a bottle before the baby is “allowed” to start breastfeeding. I have worked worked in this area for the past thirteen years and this is for the most part true.
This is also a difficult time emotionally for the parents. Many parents find it hard to believe their baby will survive. It’s hard to focus on building up a good milk supply when you are not sure your baby will ever be big enough to drink it.
Supporting breastfeeding is often not a priority for members of hospital staff who are focused on other aspects of caring for babies who may have significant medical problems and needs.
Kangaroo care, though it should be encouraged as much as possible, it is usually only for one hour skin to skin contact each hour. For more information about this approach to caring for a premature baby and some of the research supporting it, see kangaroomothercare.com.
What Can I Do To Help My Premature Baby?
- Know the facts about why breastfeeding is so important for your baby.
- Seek out support.( La Leche League Leaders, nurses, midwives) can be a great resource for breastfeeding help and may be able to put you in touch with other mothers who have been through the experience of mothering a premie.
- Find out what arrangements are possible for staying near your baby. In some hospitals, you may be able to stay 24/7 in a room attached to the premature nursery; in others there may be no options other than to come in during the day and go home at night. It never hurts to ask: one mother I know was given a bed in an on-call room to sleep so she could be present for her baby’s night feedings.
- Maximize skin-to-skin time and do kangaroo care if at all possible. Just having your baby skin-to-skin will increase your milk production.
- Remove milk from the breast frequently, day and night. Short, frequent feedings are more helpful in establishing milk production than longer, widely spaced feedings. Hand expression may be most effective at first; a breast pump may be helpful later. (Hand expressing after you pump can increase milk removal and therefore milk production.) Of course, as soon as the baby is able to breastfeed, that becomes another way to remove milk. You may find that you are producing more milk than your baby needs at first. That’s okay, he’ll catch up!
- Avoid bottles if possible. Sometimes hospital policies require that babies have bottles prior to breastfeeding, and fighting the policy may be more stress than parents can deal with. Working with a La Leche League Leader or lactation consultant can help you get your baby breastfeeding effectively even if bottles have been given.
- Watch your baby for signs of readiness to breastfeed. This is your baby’s feeding cues. They help you to know when your baby is ready to feed. Your baby may have become used to the nursery routines, but as he gets stronger you’ll want to respond to his hunger cues.
Every baby is an individual, and premature babies will have different challenges than those who are full term.
Did you know that premature babies are not fed on demand? No, they are fed every one -2 hours.
After the first hour
Many premature babies will be stable in skin-to-skin contact after 90 minutes, often to the surprise of health professionals. Decisions need to be made about feeding and fluids and continued care. Oxygen by mask or by CPAP [or continuous positive airway pressure] can easily be arranged while in skin-to-skin contact, drips and feeding tubes can be secured sideways.
If the baby is stable and the mother well, the carrier can be used. A premature baby should not be fed on demand, it needs to be fed far more frequently, every hour or two, day and night. This means loosening the wrapper regularly, so that mother can express breast milk. This is good for the baby and mother, though baby must never get cold.” I like to encourage moms to request to breastfeed as soon as possible. The sooner the better.
What Are Some Of The Issues I Will Face With Breastfeeding My Premie?
You are risk for low milk production :Stimulate your milk supply:
The most efficient and convenient way to do this is to use a hospital-grade pump with a double collection kit (a hospital nurse or lactation consultant will get one for you and show you how to use it). You’ll also eventually want to rent one to use for the first several weeks at home, until you’re sure your baby is feeding well at your breast.
Poor latch: While in hospital, learn how to properly latch your baby
Learning to breastfeed a premature baby can be challenging as your baby’s suck-swallow-breathe reflex is usually not developed until the 32 week in the womb. This is about 8 weeks before being full term.
It can also be challenging to figure out whether your baby is getting enough by breast alone if you’re used to supplementing feedings.
Not recognizing baby’s feeding cues: Watch out for your baby’s feeding cues
A common rule in taking care of preterm babies is to limit how much they cry, on the theory that crying wastes precious energy better devoted to growing. Of course, it’s harder to care for a baby when you can’t wait for him to cry out to say he’s hungry or uncomfortable. You’ll have to learn to anticipate your baby’s hunger, which takes time. To minimize crying and maximize intake, you must figure out when your baby wants to eat, and when he’ll be ready for the next feeding. This isn’t easy because premature babies tend to be quieter when asking for food than their full-term peers. Wakefulness may be the only clue that he’s getting hungry, instead of the full-throated wail heard in most nurseries.
You may be afraid to ask about your baby’s health: Ask anyway
Many mothers of premature babies are usually reluctant to ask about their infant’s condition. You will worry if you do not know the chances of survival for your baby. Ask the doctors and nurses about your baby’s progress and make time to meet them.
Adhere to the hospital’s policy for prevention of infection as much as possible.
In the Neonatal Intensive Care Units, there are certain protocols that are in place to help prevent baby from getting sick. Adhere as much as possible to handwashing techniques, bringing supplies for baby, and gowning up before visiting.
Breastfeeding Benefits: Always Good For You And Baby
Your breast milk is important to your baby at any age. Giving your premature baby your breast milk benefits their health as well as yours.
- helps protect your baby from infections, particularly of their gut – premature babies are more likely to get infections than full term babies.
- contains hormones, nutrients and growth factors that help your baby to grow and develop
- is easier for your baby to digest than formula milk, because it’s human milk specially designed by your body for your baby
See other benefits of breastfeeding.
How About Donors Milk?
Hey mamas, if you are experiencing low milk supply, you can consider getting donors breast milk.
Some hospitals can provide donated breast milk for your baby to have until your own supply is established.
See the United Kingdom Association for Milk Banking (UKAMB) website for more about donor breast milk.
If donor breast milk is not available, your baby can have formula milk until you’re producing enough breast milk.
It’s recommended you do not buy donor milk over the internet. This is because the source cannot be confirmed and you cannot be sure whether the donor or the milk has been screened for infections.
Participate In Your Baby’s Care: Learn to tube feed your baby
Babies do not normally learn to co-ordinate the sucking, swallowing and breathing needed for feeding until about 34 to 36 weeks of pregnancy.
If your baby is born before this time, they may need to have breast milk via a feeding tube to begin with. This goes through their nose or mouth into their stomach. The staff in the neonatal unit can show you how to feed your baby this way.
Babies who are very premature or sick may need to be fed via an intravenous (IV) line to begin with. A fluid containing nutrients is fed straight into your baby’s vein.
Visit the Bliss website to read more about tube feeding.
Breastfeeding and prematurity can work. There is really no need for you to stress out. Take it slow and be strong and courageous in God, knowing that you will come out safe. Take advantage of your hospital visits. Try to visit as often as possible. Research has shown that the babies who do well are the ones who are visited by their parents. Keep your relationships healthy and strong. You will need support from time to time. Ask questions about your baby. Touch your baby , pray during each visit. Please leave comments or questions below. Thanks for stopping by. Visit again. If you are a mother of a premature baby, please leave some comments below to let me know how you are doing. Here is a great video on breastfeeding your premature baby. Enjoy!