If your baby is born early (before 37 completed weeks of gestation) and is small, you may find feeding a challenge. Your baby may be able to breastfeed or bottle-feed, or suckling and swallowing may be difficult. Your baby may be sleepy, even during a feeding. It is important that preterm babies experience steady weight gain.
Your participation in the feeding plan is important, and your care provider wants to help you with the feeding method of your choice. Here are the answers to some questions you might have:
Breast milk has the same benefits for your baby as any baby. The American Academy of Pediatrics says that breast milk is the best for all babies for the first year. Breast milk has the following special benefits for preterm babies:
There are several ways that your baby may be fed, including:
Your baby may have developed his/her ability to latch on, suckle, and swallow. Or your baby may still have to grow and develop enough to do the “work” of feeding. Your nurse and other healthcare providers will work with you and your baby to ensure that feeding goes well, and that your baby receives the calorie intake he/she needs.
If your baby feeds from only one breast, you can pump the other to ensure that you keep up your milk supply. Other things you might do in the hospital to ensure that your baby is getting enough include:
While you are in the hospital, your baby may be weighed before and after feedings to ensure that he/she is doing well.
After you go home, some steps you may take to make sure you are making enough milk and that your baby is feeding well include:
Healthy & Happy: Tips on Preventing Preterm Birth Nurses give advice on what you can do to help prevent your baby from being born too early.