Feeding your premature baby

If your baby is born prematurely or is poorly for another reason, breast milk will help their vulnerable tummy to mature and fight infection. Breast milk is easier for their stomachs to digest than infant formula. It also contains hormones and growth factors that help your baby grow and become stronger. 

Skin-to-skin contact

As soon as possible, you’ll be encouraged to spend time holding your baby against your skin. This is called Kangaroo Care. Your baby will be dressed just in a nappy, and then placed inside your top or blouse so that they can be held securely against your skin.

This skin to skin contact helps you feel close to your baby, and feel more confident with them. Your partner can enjoy skin-to-skin contact as well.

How to breastfeed a premature baby

If your baby is born early, it's even more important that you're supported to breastfeed. Even if you and/or your baby aren't well enough to breastfeed directly from the breast, spending as much time as possible close together helps to promote breastfeeding and boost breast milk production. Every feed that your baby consumes is valuable; some people call it ‘liquid gold’. Even if your baby is not ready to feed, you'll need to express your breast milk in order to build up your supply. 

Expressing milk if your baby is premature

If your baby is premature and in a neonatal unit, the hospitals will usually be able to lend you a hospital-grade electric breast pump for expressing your milk. If they can't lend you one, pumps are also available from your local children’s centre or Little Angels breast feeding support.  The Wakefield NCT groups can also hire out breast bumps.   
It's recommended that you express eight to 10 times a day, including at least once at night, to keep your milk supply up.

The staff in your neonatal unit, your midwife or peer supporter can advise you on how to increase your milk supply, how to encourage your milk flow, and how to use the breast pump. Always ask for help if you have any concerns or questions.

Donor milk

Calderdale hospital have a milk bank and are able to provide donated breast milk to Wakefield women so that your baby can have donor breast milk.  The milk is safe, screened and pasturised.  Donor breastmilk contains components which help to protect your baby from serious infections in a similar way to your own milk.  Where your own breast milk or donor breast milk isn't available, infant formula can be supplied until you're producing enough breast milk.

If you're unable to express enough of your own breast milk for your baby or babies, ask your midwife or neonatal nurse for information about donor milk.

You can also visit the UK milk bank association for more information.

Other milks

The doctor may suggest that your newborn needs milk other than your own. In some hospitals, supplements are sometimes introduced if it's difficult for you to produce enough breast milk for your baby, particularly if you’ve been unwell or had to wait a while before starting to express.
Fortifiers, which contain a mixture of minerals, vitamins and protein, are sometimes used.

Moving on to breastfeeding

While holding your baby, you may notice them try to move towards your breast. Gradually, as they develop and get stronger, they will be able to breastfeed directly.

The first time you try it, the hospital staff may ask you to express first, then put your baby to your breast so that they’re not overwhelmed by the milk and become tired too quickly. At first, your baby may only lick the breast, then next time take a few sucks until they're confident feeders. This process will encourage their sucking reflex and help them get used to the new way of feeding.
For more information on premature babies, see Best Beginnings website.


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