How to Breastfeed a Premature Infant

Breastfeeding Premature Baby

A premature baby is not just a smaller baby. Many of them come with challenges due to their low birth weight and early delivery. These challenges can include breastfeeding.

Understand the Needs and Challenges of a Premature Baby

Premature babies usually have many challenges. Each baby has a different set of challenges. It all depends on the baby and the circumstances around their birth. There can be challenges in breastfeeding, breathing, and other ‘normal’ actions. This will require patience and quality time spent with your baby.

No one anticipates a premature birth. This means that the odds are that you did not read up on premature babies before you went into labor. Now, you have to. Read as much as you can from pamphlets to books. See what the hospital offers in the way of education about having a premature baby.

Keeping an Adequate Milk Supply

With many premature babies, they will not be able to begin breastfeeding immediately. Yet if you do not breastfeed you can lose your milk supply. That will not do if you want to breastfeed later. You need to use a Medela breast pump to keep your milk production high. Many hospitals can work with you to get a breast pump that will help you do just that.

  1. Don’t wait to use the pump. The longer you wait the less likely you are to have the milk you need.
  2. Pump as often as you would feed your child which can range from every 2 to 4 hours a day. Don’t skip the nighttime. This is important to keep it up.
  3. Use a quality pump that works good while being comfortable.
  4. Use warm compresses on the breasts to relax the tissue for more milk flow.
  5. Use herbs such as milk thistle, brewer’s yeast, or fenugreek to help stimulate milk.
  6. Stay healthy. You need to be healthy to have adequate milk.

The Personal Touch

Your baby needs your personal touch. It might be the best thing you can do for them. This means spending time with your baby and touching skin to skin. One of the best methods is known as the kangaroo method where you hold your baby against your skin. He will feel your warmth and feel more secure. This will also help your baby to breastfeed. He’ll feel your warmth and allow his natural instincts to take over. He’ll soon be seeking out your nipple. Let him have it though be prepared that he won’t get all he needs the first few times. He’ll need supplemental milk until he gets the hang of it.

Mother’s Health

The mother’s health is important. You’d be surprised how much that effects milk production and your time with your baby.

  1. Rest – You need your rest. When you don’t rest, your body reacts negatively including the function of producing milk.
  2. Relax – Stress affects your entire body. Some women have noted that stress actually decreases their milk production.
  3. Eat good – The foods you eat affect your stress levels, your immune system, and your milk supply. You want to eat healthy during this time.
  4. Be healthy – You need to be healthy for your child. He needs you. He needs you healthy and ready to take care of him when he goes home.

Use Resources

There are many resources out there for you as a mother of a premature baby. Start with the hospital. There are many resources that a hospital can provide from support groups to equipment and education.

Check local parenting groups or extensions from the hospital or county health services. You might find support groups, medical specialists that focus on breastfeeding, and books and documentaries that can help you.

Amy Nielson is an avid blogger. You can follow her on Twitter @NielsonAmy.