Can Premature Babies Breastfeed

Updated at: May 14, 2015
Can Premature Babies Breastfeed

Newborn Care - Can Premature Babies Breastfeed? A premature baby may be too small and weak to latch onto a mother's breast at birth, but it is still possible to build a successful nursing relationship and to provide the baby milk from the first da

Rory Coen
Tips for ParentWritten by: Rory CoenPublished at: Feb 04, 2013

Premature babies obviously won’t cope with life outside the womb as quickly as those who are born on time. This is nature; they’re not as resilient, they may have disorganized sucking patterns, they tire easily. All of these symptoms may mean that they won’t take to breast feeding. So can premature baby’s breastfeed?


The first thing to be analysed is how premature the baby is. If they are only 2-3 weeks early, then they are deemed to be “late preterm” or “near term”; you may have heard these terms before. Sometimes, the doctors allow you to take the baby home 2-3 days after birth in this scenario, however, they usually insist that the baby stays in care until the expected “due date”.


Required Nutrients

Premature babies won’t get the required nutrients from outside the womb naturally, so it’s important to keep this in mind. Breast milk – although it provides excellent nutrition and sustenance for the baby – cannot compete with what the womb offered. It will need to be supplemented with human milk fortifiers – usually cow’s milk formula products – and these contain nutrients which help the baby to gain weight.


They also need to be supplemented with vitamin D and iron during these “preterm” days or weeks, because these critical elements would have been transferred to the baby naturally from the mother during the expected gestational period. Late pre-terms usually feed just like full-term babies however, so you shouldn’t be worried about their premature births.


Breastfeeding Premature Babies


So it ultimately depends on how premature you baby is. At 32 weeks, the premature baby isn’t able to manage his sucking or swallowing, or even coordinate his breathing to work with the sucking. Even at 37 weeks, they aren’t strong enough to suck the milk, so it can be very difficult and trying experience for a mother.


To manage this situation, mothers need to pump their breast milk as often as possible and this will then be used to feed their babies through a feeding tube until the time comes when they are strong enough and can co-ordinate the senses to suck the milk.


So can your baby breastfeed? Well, I hope this article gives you some understanding of the procedure. It will be a natural progression so you must understand that the premature baby will need a few extra days to get up to speed.


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