If breast milk is important for all babies, it is nothing less than vital for premature babies. Premature babies are very susceptible to infection, more so than a normal baby so he will need all the nourishment that you can offer him. Though there are special formulas and food supplements, nothing in this world can replace the goodness of the breast milk for your special baby.
It doesn’t matter if your baby is not ready to nurse at your breast, you will be asked to express the milk, which will then be fed to the baby through Nanasogastric (NG) tube also known as gavage. If you are obsessively watching your babies weight, you will notice that they will start putting on weight as soon as they start on your breast milk.
If your baby was born before 37 weeks, then he would be required to stay in the hospital and depending on his progress, he will be allowed to go home. In most cases, they will be allowed to go home around the due date that was given to you. Your premature baby is easily fatigued and will probably take more time to master the latching and sucking process. In some cases, they prefer to continue the bottle feeding so the mother is left with no choice but to continue expressing and supplement his feed with formula drinks. Most often, iron supplements are recommended for the premature babies since they wouldn’t have got adequate iron during the third trimester.
Breastfeeding, premature babies are a challenging and difficult task since they are easily fatigued and till now, they have been fed by a tube, which didn’t require them to do any action. They will have a disorganized sucking pattern and may not be interested in breastfeeding so be patient and keep trying. Some preterm babies would not cry when they are hungry so you will have to look for other clues to find out whether he is hungry or not. If he is stirring and getting restless, then it may be a sign that he is hungry. These babies should feed at least 8 – 12 times in a day. If they are sleeping continuously, then wake them up and give them a feed.
If your baby is finding the breastfeeding difficult, then you will have to continue expressing your milk using a breast pump. You will have to continue doing it until he is ready to breast feed directly with you. Pump often enough, to stock your milk and to stimulate your breast to produce more milk.
The first milk after birth, known as Colostrom is very important for your baby. According to studies, preterm babies who had Colostrom, gained adequate weight, didn’t catch any infection and were out of the hospital without many complications. Since Colostrom comes in small quantities, it cannot be expressed by a pump, you will have to hand express manually and feed the baby through the tube.
Persistence is the key to breastfeed a premature baby. Do not be discouraged by the fact that the baby is not interested in feeding with you. If you persist on giving him the breast, he will soon get the hang of it. These babies are fragile little things, so the more they breastfeed, the better for them.