Nursing a Preemie Baby

Although nursing a preemie baby can be difficult, the benefits are well worth it. The breast milk that new moms produce has different fats than breast milk produced later. This milk is ideal for a preemie. Be patient with yourself when attempting to nurse a preemie; eventually it will become routine.

Beginning to Nurse
If you're going to breastfeed, it's important that you begin expressing breast milk within a day of giving birth. You can do this either by hand or by using a breast pump. Breast pumps can be bought or rented at maternity stores or you may be able to rent one from your hospital. Express for five minutes every three hours and once during the night until your milk comes in. It will take some time for your milk to come in; this is natural for any new mother.

Once your milk comes in, you'll need to pump six to eight times a day, including through the night. The only exception to night pumping is if your baby will be in the hospital for a long time. In that case you can get some sleep, but make sure you don't go more than eight hours without pumping. Pump until your breasts are empty. Although this may seem tiresome, especially when you have a new baby to be concerned with, it is important to maintaining your milk supply. Some women enjoy pumping because it makes them feel as though they're doing something positive for their child.

Tips for Preemies
If your baby is born before 32 or 33 weeks, he may be fed breast milk through a tube. You can still provide skin to skin contact to encourage your baby's interest in breastfeeding. Once your baby reaches 32 to 33 weeks, you can gradually introduce breastfeeding. Some mothers use a bottle as a transition method. 

Preemies often won't drink much milk when they begin breastfeeding. This is normal, and consumption will increase once your preemie reaches her original due date. If your preemie isn't eating much, use a breast pump to clear out the remaining milk to keep your production high.

Consider your options and talk with your baby's doctors to determine the best way for you to transition. There are some tools you can use to facilitate breast feeding, such as an at-breast nursing supplementation device.

Lactation consultants are always available to help with breastfeeding issues. You may be able to find one through your hospital or you can contact La Leche League International.

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