Breast feeding preemies are often a challenge due to the baby’s inability to latch on. The choice to breast or formula feed is an important decision all mothers make. It becomes only slightly more complicated for the mom of a preemie.
Even if the baby is able to latch on, she may not be able to coordinate the suck, swallow, breathe pattern and get quickly fatigued. Therefore, most of the time mothers will pump breast milk and the babies will receive it through a tube or in a bottle if they can handle it.
Even if your child is unable to breast feed in the beginning, it is important to consider pumping your milk so they can take it through the tube. In early preemies, breast milk usually needs to be fortified with human milk fortifier, a powder that contains additional calories and minerals to promote growth.
Many parents in the NICU feel helpless and don’t know what they can do to help their baby. Pumping and providing them with breast milk is a great way to do something beneficial for your baby. Breast feeding preemies give some parents a sense of control and makes them feel better knowing they are dong something that will help their baby be healthier in the future. Breast feeding preemies can be the best thing you can do for your baby right now. I highly recommend breastfeeding or pumping if you are able to physically and mentally handle it with everything else going on in your life.
If you are having difficulty producing enough milk or cannot pump with a regular pump, a hospital grade pump can be rented. Insurance frequently reimburses this expense, and many parents find this a worthwhile investment. For more information on breastfeeding go to breast feeding problems.If you find breast feeding preemies isn’t for you and you can’t deal with having to pump on top of everything else, don’t despair. If you are under too much stress and cannot produce enough or just are so exhausted you can’t even think about pumping every few hours, it’s OK. There are excellent formulas out there for preemies that closely replicate breast milk and have the right amounts of minerals and protein to help your preemie thrive. Depending on the age and condition of your child she may receive Similac Special care or Neosure, or Enfamil Premature lipil or Enfacare. These are all specially formulated to meet the needs of preemies at different stages.
There are many challenges in feeding a preemie. Check back often as we expand this section and explore in greater detail preemie feeding challenges and treatment.
For information on preemies and the whole NICU experience, visit NICU mama.