Breastfeeding a premature baby

What to expect if you want to breastfeed your premature baby

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Feeding your prem baby breast milk gives them an important start in life. You could try it for a little while, just to see how it goes, with the option to switch to formula milk later. Two important factors to consider are that breast milk is easier for your premature baby to tolerate than formula milk, and it will also help protect them against the illnesses to which prem babies are especially vulnerable.

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Your baby may not be ready to feed directly from the breast straight away, but while they are growing stronger you can begin to express your breast milk with the aid of a electric or manual pump. You will need to express milk frequently to ensure a good supply, ready to be fed to your baby, possibly by drip feed at first. 

For mums of premature babies it can take a little extra time to establish a milk supply. During the last stages of pregnancy, hormones prepare the breasts to start producing milk, and this process may have been cut short if your baby was born early. But don’t worry, you will eventually catch up, so don’t lose heart. 

Expressing can feel like a big pressure, but it’s important to remember that no matter how much or little you are able to express, your baby will benefit.

Eventually the time will come when your baby is ready to breastfeed from you! 

At the first feed do not expect too much since premature babies get tired easily and must gradually learn to suck. Initially they may not show much interest, especially if they are being fed every hour, since it is the feeling of hunger that triggers their demand. Touching their lips or jaw gently may help. To avoid tiring your baby try massaging your breasts first and expressing a little milk on to the nipple before putting your baby to the breast. 

You will need to support your baby with a specially-shaped support pillow, which will help raise him to the correct height and position for successful latching on and feeding. 

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For more help and advice on breastfeeding with a premature baby visit the Bliss website here

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