Caring For And Feeding Premature Babies

A preemie baby’s life seems to be little more than eating and sleeping in the first few months, both of which help them grow to catch up with their full-term peers. Top of your agenda as a mom is to make sure your preemie feeds as often as possible to get the maximum amount of nutrients.

Feeding premature babies
In almost all cases, preemies aren’t able to latch and suckle when they’re newborn, making it difficult for them to breastfeed naturally. However, breastmilk is incredibly important for a preemie baby – it contains specific antibodies and other protective factors to help protect your preemie’s particularly sensitive immune system, as well as extra calories, vitamins and proteins to nourish your baby. For this reason, the hospital staff will assist you in pumping your breastmilk immediately after your baby is born to encourage milk production and to use to feed your preemie via a nasogastric tube until they develop the ability to suckle themselves.

Once your preemie is ready to feed directly from your breast, you’ll need to nurse them frequently as they tend not to take in much milk at each feeding. You may need to supplement their breastfeeding with a fortified formula for premature babies. Be sure to continue pumping after each feed to keep up milk production. The easiest and most efficient way to do this is by using a hospital-grade pump with double collection kit, which a nurse or lactation consultant can help you with.

The hospital staff will work closely with you in the hospital to make sure your preemie gains enough weight and takes in enough nutrients before they can come home. When taking your preemie home, keep these important points in mind:

  • Feed them regularly to avoid unnecessary energy expended on crying, even before they indicate that they’re hungry. Wakefulness can be a clue to hunger, but you might also wake your baby up to trigger the suckling instinct. Aim to feed your preemie every 3 hours, and more often if they want to.
  • Hire a lactation consultant to help monitor your baby’s weight gain, or use an electronic scale to weigh your preemie after feeding sessions, to see that they have taken in enough nutrients and calories. Use this as a guide, but be careful not to become obsessed about the numbers.

Preparing to care for your preemie at home
First things first, you’ll have to have an appropriate car safety seat to take your preemie home. Preemies are often too small for a normal car seat, so you’ll need a preemie-approved seat or a car bed to ensure they travel home safely.

Prepare yourself to care for your preemie by scheduling a consultation before leaving the hospital, during which you learn how to administer any medication or use special equipment. It’s advised to learn infant cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) before bringing your little one home.

Be sure to brush up on any medical conditions your preemie may face and how to identify symptoms and signs. Find a comprehensive guide to these preemie medical conditions here.

Disclaimer: Breastfeeding is best for babies. WHO recommends exclusive breastfeeding for six months. PURITY fully supports this with continued breastfeeding, along with the introduction of complementary food as advised by healthcare professionals.