Breastfeeding a Premature Baby
There is a special need for premature babies to have their mother's breast milk, as it is uniquely designed for the baby's individual needs -- a perfect balance of nutrients and antibodies. However, many mothers who deliver early may have overwhelming feelings of uncertainty. They may feel that they just want to hand their tiny baby over to the doctors and nurses to care for. They may also feel inept to provide what their little one needs to survive.
But try to relax and listen to your body. Your body knows what it's doing without much control on your part. Besides, your body has taken care of your little one for many, many months -- providing everything your unborn baby has needed to get to this point.
And it doesn't stop there. You are an important part in providing the absolute best care your baby needs, and your body will create the perfect blend of breast milk your child needs to thrive. The nutrients and antibodies found in breast milk can make a significant difference in the health of your child for years to come.
The breast milk your body produces for your preemie contains a higher amount of protein and nutrients than the milk produced by a mother who has a full-term baby. Thus, the opportunity to breastfeed (or express your milk) can help your child's health and build up his or her immune system.
In addition, research has shown that breastfeeding is less stressful on a baby than bottle feeding, so if you are willing to breastfeed, try to do whatever you can to make it happen. There are wonderful lactation specialists who can help teach you proper latch-on techniques and positions that work best for you and your little one.
Not only will your preterm baby benefit from your uniquely made breast milk, but he or she will also benefit from that bonding time with you. Skin-to-skin contact and those nurturing arms of mom can build a bond that is more therapeutic than an incubator or other high-tech machine. Don't underestimate a mother's touch. You have a unique gift to provide to your baby, premature or not. You have the exact nutrients needed in your breast milk, and you can provide the love and comfort needed the most to help your baby rest easy.
If your little one arrives earlier than expected, remain confident that you can still breastfeed, or at least provide that breast milk for your little one. And the health benefits received during those breastfeeding times can extend even into adulthood, with antibodies that can protect them from many diseases and other medical conditions.