Hand to Hold's Official Blog: Written by Parents for Parents

Breastfeeding – the Prerequisites

First of all, if you’re planning to breastfeed your tiny preemie baby, you need to read Pumping: Your Greatest Commitment and OTs: My Very Best Friends. Pumping will be your life for some time, and the Occupational Therapists will be such a help to you. Never forget to call on them because they’re amazing!

Depending on how early your preemie was, the very first thing that you might be allowed to do with your baby in regards to breastfeeding is Skin to Skin. I will talk about Skin to Skin, or Kangaroo Care, in another post, but it’s basically holding your baby against your bare skin so your baby can learn your smell, hear your heartbeat, and feel and imitate your breathing rhythm. This is a wonderful bonding experience for parents and their preemies. I’m mentioning it in regards to breastfeeding because it helps your baby get used to you, and begin to recognize the scent of your milk.

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As your baby matures and begins instinctively rooting, the OTs will help you and your preemie “practice” breastfeeding. They may call it “nuzzling” or “playing with the nipples” because you will help your baby learn the feel of your nipples and open her mouth wide in response to stimulation. Because preemies are so tiny and have so little energy your practice sessions will be short and progress will probably be slow. However, it will be very exciting to watch your baby’s instincts kick in and to help her latch on correctly. Keep in mind that preemie’s mouths are very tiny so getting a good latch may be difficult at first. The OTs may suggest you use a nipple shield occasionally because the shields help the baby latch easier and they help regulate your milk flow (so your preemie doesn’t drown if you produce a lot of milk).

Once your preemie can latch on and actually receive nourishment from you a whole new level of breastfeeding will open up – one that’s more challenging and more rewarding!

My Story: My 27w3d preemie was one day shy of one month old (actual age) when I was allowed to do my first skin to skin. Eight days later at 32w6d gestation I got to “practice” breastfeeding for the first time. It was a very exciting day! We practiced for almost two weeks before she was eating enough for me to start weighing her before and after nursing to see how much she received. Thus, the breastfeeding scale came into play and weigh-ins began at 34w4d gestation!

Continue to Breastfeeding:  The Ups and Downs.

How have your experiences differed from mine? Please comment below.

Afton Mower About Afton Mower

After Mower (UT) lost her firstborn son at 21 weeks.  Her daughter was born a year and a half later at 27 weeks.  The NICU was overwhelming and isolating and it was through those two experiences she was led to found this social hub for parents to find the support they needed. Afton also gave birth to another daughter, born two days overdue after four months of strict bedrest. She believes it is a tender experience to hold a special baby in your arms when his spirit returns to his heavenly home, a miracle to watch tiny babies survive the risks of prematurity and a blessing to hold a healthy full-term baby after months of difficulty and sacrifices.

Comments

  1. My breastfeeding experience was a great challenge with my preemie twins. Before they were even born I had nightmares about breastfeeding. They were my first children and I wanted to be successful with breastfeeding. When we started our first attempts with breastfeeding, I had developed a UTI and had a high fever and severe chills. I was shaking so badly that I couldn’t safely hold my baby girl with one attempt. I was given an antibiotic and told to keep pumping but that I had to throw the breastmilk away because of the infection. I cried with every ounce I dumped. That was such a precious commodity for my babies. Once the infection had cleared up, I was allowed to try breastfeeding again. My daughter seemed to get it down, but my son was so sleepy he wouldn’t wake up enough to get a latch. I did use a breast shield at times to help with latching issues.

    When my daughter came home I nursed about half the time and pumped half the time. She was supposed to have fortified breast milk or formula for at least some of her daily feedings. I also had to continue pumping for my son. In the end, we ended up supplementing with formula with some feedings for both babies because I wasn’t able to keep up with the breast milk. I wish I had known then what I know now about supply and demand. I think I could have kept up with both babies’ needs.

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