Breastfeeding Your Early/Premature Baby

You’re in your third trimester and completely ready for the baby to come. But what happens when baby comes too early? Below are a few points to follow in order to help your little one to grow and thrive.

The final weeks of pregnancy are a very important time frame for your developing baby. Sometimes baby decides, or other factors decide, they are arriving early. Ready or not, here comes baby!

Premature infants, or preemies, arrive when pregnancy lasts fewer than 37 weeks. Early infants need special care during their first weeks to eat properly, gain weight and stay healthy and strong. The earlier a baby is, the more difficult breastfeeding can be. Here are a few helpful hints for those early babies and moms.

No matter how early your baby is, as soon as they are stable enough, spend time doing skin to skin touching. This means undressing your baby down to the diaper and having baby skin to skin contact on your chest both while in the hospital and at home. Your body temperature will adjust to baby’s to keep them warm. Research shows this also helps increase your milk supply. Once baby is home, try using the Moby Wrap to continue skin to skin contact and making your hands free for other things. The ability to breastfeed will depend on how premature your baby is.

2 to 3 Weeks Early:
Some may do well in the hospital but may not nurse every feeding well at home. It is very important to pump after baby breastfeeds so your breasts get the stimulation they need to keep up a plentiful milk supply. This helps keep breastmilk on hand to supplement with rather than formula. It is also very important to have a good double electric breastpump to maintain a good milk supply. Medela’s Advanced Pump InStyle double electric pumps are good choices, but Medela’s hospital-grade Symphony rental pump is the best option. Did you know your breasts make different colostrum and breastmilk depending on how many weeks gestation your baby is and it continues to change and evolve with your baby’s growth and development? There is nothing better for your premature baby than your breastmilk!

4 or More Weeks Early:
If your baby is very premature and not able to breastfeed right away, you can still have skin to skin contact next to your breast. Watch for baby to show you feeding cues:

  • Baby smacks his lips
  • Sticks his tongue in and out
  • Puts his hand to his mouth
  • Becomes more active

Even if your baby isn’t able to latch on and do a complete feeding at the breast, it is still helpful to practice and learn your taste and smell. You can also express some breastmilk for your baby to taste at the nipple. Skin to skin next to the breast is also excellent to do when your baby is getting tube feedings so they associate being at the breast and getting their tummy full. It’s also important to listen for swallowing and identifying the difference between your baby at the breast and sucking occasionally compared to actively sucking and swallowing.

It’s very helpful to keep track of your baby’s feedings and diaper changes. When you take your baby to the doctor for weight checks, it’s easy for a doctor to see how well your baby has been doing if they can count the number of wets and stools per day. Your baby should have a weight check at least weekly until breastfeeding is well established and baby is consistently gaining about an ounce per day. You can also weigh baby before and after breastfeeding to see how much milk they have taken. Moms can rent the Medela digital baby scale and see to the tenth of an ounce how much their baby gets per breast.

Breastfeeding Support & Supplies has feeding charts available for no charge. We also have Moby Wraps for purchase along with Medela digital baby scales and Symphony pumps to rent. All of Medela’s double electric pumps are available including the backpack and over the shoulder Advanced Pump InStyles, the Metro bag and the Freestyle. We also have a full line of preemie clothing.

Diane has years of experience working with premature infants. She was a home health maternal child nurse for 10 years where she followed preemies after they were discharged from the hospital. A consultation will help you transition from hospital to home in learning to take care of your preemie and monitoring their breastfeeding and weight gain. Call or email me anytime to schedule an appointment.

Still have questions? Don’t hesitate to call or email me anytime with your concerns. I am here to assist you in any way I can.

(402) 707-1696 or contact me.