Research has shown that breastfeeding is less stressful for the premature baby than bottle-feeding. Even a very small premature baby has been shown to tolerate long periods at the breast without distress. The baby stays warm, and the oxygen levels in his blood remain normal during and after feeds. A premature baby at the breast has long periods of interaction with the mother, including touching and eye-to-eye contact. During this time there are periods of sucking and resting. This means that the baby should have as much time as he needs for a breastfeed, except where there is a medical problem that limits time at the breast.
This article is based on the booklet Breastfeeding Your Premature Baby, which can be purchased from Mothers Direct http://www.mothersdirect.com.au/. The booklet contains valuable information from research on breastfeeding premature infants, as well as experiences of other parents of premature babies to inform, reassure and encourage you.
Why is breastmilk important for my baby?
Breastmilk is the normal and natural food for any human baby. For a premature baby, breastmilk is especially important to prevent damage to baby’s immature digestive system. Breastmilk helps to promote good health in a way artificial milks cannot match. Breastfeeding can be a challenge if your baby is very small, or has other health problems but with perseverance, knowledge and help, you and your baby will soon learn all the skills you need. Breastfeeding or breastmilk feeding will also save you from the ongoing expense of buying artificial milks for your baby. The many reasons why breastmilk is important are detailed in the Australian Breastfeeding Association booklets Breastfeeding Your Premature Baby and Breastfeeding: an introduction, both of which are available from Mothers Direct.
One thing only a mother can do
Providing your breastmilk is one thing only you can do for your baby. You are the only one who can provide this important nutrition for your baby. Providing this vital part of her care can be a positive outlet for all the feelings a mother has when her baby is born prematurely. It is not always an easy road to travel, but have confidence in your ability and think positively about all the other mothers who have succeeded.
Why breastfeeding is recommended by your baby’s medical team
In most neonatal intensive care units and special care nurseries, staff are aware of the importance of breastmilk and they will encourage you to provide your own milk for your baby. This is because the medical research into the health and survival of a premature baby is showing that, as for all babies, breastmilk is vital. Breastmilk is so important for premature babies that some hospitals are now establishing human milk banks to ensure that our most vulnerable infants receive human milk.
Doctors and scientists recommend breastmilk feeding for the following reasons:
Your breastmilk is specifically tailored for your baby.
It is easy to digest, so the premature baby will gain the most nutrients with the least effort, even with her immature digestive capabilities.
There is little waste with breastmilk and the elimination of this waste will not overtax immature kidneys.
Breastmilk, especially the first milk (colostrum), is very important because it increases the baby’s resistance to many infections and diseases.
The milk from mothers of preterm babies has special qualities which allow for optimum growth and development. ‘Preterm’ milk, although similar in many respects to full-term milk, contains higher concentrations of protein and some immunological components and minerals.
Even the tiniest amounts of breastmilk contain very concentrated amounts of nutrients and immune components, so even if a mother is able to produce only a trickle of breastmilk, the baby still benefits.
The subject matter provided in these articles is strictly for informational purposes alone and should never be used in the place of a doctor’s advice. Please ALWAYS contact your doctor if you ever have questions or need advice in any area where medical advice is needed or medication is suggested.
Information sourced from https://www.breastfeeding.asn.au/bf-info/premature