Premature, small and or jaundice babies.
Small, sleepy, jaundiced, premature babies often find it harder to feed and it’s a harder to establish breastfeeding.
If your baby is born between 24 and 32 weeks you will likely be experiencing a very difficult time and you will have many challenges on the way. The hospital will be able to advise you best about your feeding journey.
If your baby is born between 32- 37 weeks, you may be wondering can I breastfeed my baby?? Yes many of you will be able to, however, having an early baby can present you with many challenges. Breastfeeding will be harder and more challenging and having extra support is crucial.
Babies from 32- 34 weeks will require some sort of NICU care and often require oxygen via CPAC. It may be a little while before until your baby is well and strong enough to breastfeed. Until they are strong enough it’s important to establish your supply by expressing.
Late premature babies born between 35 – 37 weeks may require NICU care however many of them may be strong enough to go straight to the ward with Mum.
Establishing breastfeeding with a premature baby
Often premature babies have a low birth weight and are more at risk. It is very common for them to require full feeds or top ups via a gastric nasal tube or bottle until the baby is strong enough and breastfeeding is established. Some babies however will require top ups indefinitely.
If you are reading this prior to giving birth, and are about to deliver an early or small baby please remember. While in labor (NOT BEFORE) try expressing colostrum. This can be of great benefit especially if baby requires NICU care or isn’t able to feed. The colostrum straight away will help with blood sugars and will give them a great start”
If your baby is unable to feed you will have to express to give your body a helping hand to bring your milk in, this is normally your baby’s job but it isn’t always possible.
You will start off by hand expressing your colostrum, it is very important to be able to give this to your baby. Remember we are all different with some women being able to hand express plenty of colostrum and some very little. The best way to collect colostrum is to hand express it onto a clean sterile spoon, then remove via a syringe to give to your baby. If you are too unwell to do this, get your partner or hospital staff to help.
After 2 days, you will need to start using an electric pump, instead of or as well as hand pumping. If you are in hospital you will be given an electric hospital grade pump to help establish your supply. You will get given the correct size parts and shown how to sterilize the equipment. Head here for more info on sterilizing.
Ways to achieve good milk supply if your baby isn’t able to breastfeed alone.
- You will want to express 7-12 times within a 24-hour period. Either after a feed or instead of a feed.
- You will need to pump through the night; between 2am-4am being the best time. (Allow yourself 4-5hours max between pumps during the night)
- Express 10-15 minutes per side (getting a double pump can help quicken the time you are pumping)
- Some women find pumping 5 minutes then switching sides 4x or 5x times works best
- Avoid watching the pump, and try and relax.
- If your baby isn’t with you having a photo of them close by helps.
- If you are with your baby you could try pumping while doing skin on skin Head here for more info on skin on skin.
Pumping is time consuming, hard work, frustrating and its hard not to feel like a cow being milked. All mums would rather be feeding their babies but this isn’t always possible. Be kind to yourself and ask for help and support. Head here for more info on pumping.
Feeding your baby especially in stressful situations can cause anxiety and increases your chances of developing PND, so be kind to yourself. You are doing an amazing job.