Providing Milk for Preemie

We had a surprise and our son was born 6 weeks early. The doctor is saying he will spend several weeks in the NICU. I really want to breastfeed but they are recommending supplements and that I only pump. Is this best for my baby? I’m unsure.

At 34 weeks your baby should be able to try to latch and spend time at your breast, even if they can't get a full feeding. Your baby may need to be fed by a tube or syringe before they can breastfeed. You need to use a hospital grade double electric pump to establish your milk supply.

If possible, pump every two hours during the day and every three hours at night. In the first several days, express your milk often by hand. It's easier to remove your colostrum (your first milk) with hand expression than by pumping. All of the colostrum is very important to give to your baby. It helps to seal up their gut and give them a healthy digestive system for the rest of their life. Colostrum is available in very small amounts and is safe for a baby to swallow even if they are not taking in larger quantities of milk yet. 

When pumping, it can be helpful to look at your baby or if you are away from your baby, look at photos or a video of your baby. In addition to pumping, the best thing you can do is spend a lot of time with your baby skin to skin. This is sometimes called “Kangaroo Care” when it’s done with preemies. Skin to skin time will help you bond with your baby and increase your milk making hormones. Babies held skin to skin will have better heart rate, breathing, and temperature regulation. Babies also grow at a faster rate when they spend more time skin to skin with their parents.

Breast milk is the perfect food for your baby and especially for a baby born early. Your body will make special milk because it knows that your baby was born early. Your baby needs this milk for the health of their digestive system and for their brain to grow. Your milk also gives them antibodies that protect them from illnesses. And because your milk is easy to digest, your baby will have fewer tummy aches.






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