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Breastfeeding Preemies

Breastfeeding a premature baby can be extra challenging but these simple tips can help make things easier.

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Hi, I'm Kimberly Durdin. I'm a board certified lactation consultant and I've been helping moms breastfeed for over 20 years. You might be concerned if your baby comes early. Whether or not you'll still be able to breastfeed, the short answer is yes. You can still provide breast milk to your baby if your baby is premature. Preemie babies need mother's milk. Mother's milk is great for all babies, but premature babies have special needs. They're more susceptible to illnesses and infections. Mother's milk protects premature babies from illnesses and protections especially the ones that premature babies are more apt to be at risk for. If your baby is not able to take the breast directly after birth, it's important to start expressing your milk as soon as possible. The first milk that moms have in their breast for their babies is colostrum. It's available in very small amounts and sometimes it's much easier to express out of the breast if mom uses hand expression. 2 to 3 days after birth, most moms will experience their mature milk coming in. At that time, we recommend that mom use a hospital grade electric breast pump to express milk from her breast which can be provided to her premature baby. It's also important to follow the specific milk storage guidelines that your hospital or NICU might have for premature babies. So the way that we store milk for babies who are healthy and full-term is different than how we would store milk for premature babies. Ideally, premature babies would receive freshly expressed breast milk from their mother. But sometimes we have to express the milk and it might need to be frozen or refrigerated again, following your hospital's specific policies on how to provide that milk for the baby. Every premature baby is different. Some babies are born premature and have good sucking abilities and can get to the breast very soon after birth. Other premature babies need more support. They may not have very mature sucking ability and may need to be tubed or bottle fed, so that's why moms would need to pump and express her milk so that the baby can receive the milk in another way. It's important to get help from a certified lactation consultant or other professional who's familiar with breast feeding and premature babies. Thanks for watching.