An ideal food that can provide nutritional needs for your baby is breastmilk. Breast milk also protects your baby from illnesses and infections.
Premature babies need more protein for their growth compared to full-term babies. You will also have more of an enzyme called lysozyme that attacks certain bacteria and also protects your baby from any kind of infection. The milk that you will produce consists more fat and less lactose mainly because lactose is hard to digest for premature babies.
If you have a full term baby, he is able to suckle breastmilk from you but if you have a premature baby, it will take weeks before he can fully suckle your breastmilk. Your milk is slightly different from a full-term milk to meet the needs of your premature baby. If your baby is very premature, he can still have your breastmilk through a tube, bottle, or cup.
You have to express your milk through your hand or an electric pump. Express your breastmilk right after you gave birth and every 2-3 hours. Expressing your breastmilk is a skill every mother should learn. Don’t be afraid to ask help from nurses, midwives, or the lactation consultant if you are having trouble expressing your breastmilk.
Premature babies getting ready for breastfeeding
Breastfeeding your premature baby needs patience. Before he can suckle, make him feel more comfortable with skin to skin contact through a kangaroo care. This will also help you to produce more milk for your baby’s needs. Get your baby ready for breastfeeding through rubbing his mouth, tongue, and inside of his cheeks.
Premature babies get tired very quickly, thus, making breastfeeding a very complicated skill. Your baby will only suckle a very small amount of milk from you. Your premature baby will take some time before he gets the hang of breastfeeding.
What are the supplements and alternatives of breastmilk for premature babies?
There are times that your breastmilk doesn’t provide all the nutrients that your premature baby needs. Your breastmilk needs extra protein, phosphorus, calories, or calcium for his bone growth. You might also add thickeners that will stop his reflux.
- Donor milk. If you are unable to breastfeed or express your breastmilk, give your baby a donated breastmilk through the milk bank of the hospital where you gave birth. Before the donated breastmilk is given to your baby, it was pasteurized. This process reduces some of the nutrients and properties of the milk that protect against infection but still has enough nutrients for your premature baby.
- Formula milk. There is special formula milk for premature babies. Giving your premature baby a formula milk doesn’t mean that you have to stop expressing or breastfeeding your baby. Any amount of breastmilk has nutrients that your premature baby badly needs.
Your premature baby’s development
Breastfeeding is essential to provide nutrients for babies. If you can’t breastfeed, expressing your breastmilk is a very good option. If your milk supply is not enough for your premature baby, there are milk formulas that can provide the basic building blocks that are important for the growth of your premature baby.