When it comes to feeding a baby born prematurely, health professionals often recommend that mothers breastfeed if they can. Breast milk has many health benefits for premature babies, and neonatologists (doctors who specialize in newborn babies) highly recommend it. Even a few drops of
breast milkcan do wonders for a premature baby's health. Breast milk is the best food for babies during the first year of life, as it contains antibodies that help keep the baby from getting sick, as well as nutrients that help the baby to grow and develop.
Preterm birth is defined as birth that occurs before 37 weeks of pregnancy. In some cases, a doctor may suggest that the baby needs to be fed both infant formula and breast milk for additional nutrition. Before being discharged from the NICU (Intensive Care Unit for Newborns), nurses can give parents an idea of their baby's eating pattern. Sometimes, breast milk alone may not provide premature babies with all the nutrients they need to grow well.
In such cases, supplements may be necessary. Generally, premature babies are able to feed well from the breast or bottle around 34 weeks of gestation. Colostrum (the first milk produced by mothers) will have more protein than the colostrum of mothers who give birth at term, as premature babies need more protein to grow. When your baby is ready to start breastfeeding, progress may be slow, especially if your baby was born very early or is very sick.
A milk bank can provide donated breast milk that has been analyzed and deemed safe for consumption.