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

Our Children’s Nutrition

Jackson's First BottleI was a formula fed baby. To my mom, breastfeeding was somewhat of a taboo subject. I think she was taken a little off guard when I informed her early in my pregnancy that I planned to breastfeed her first grandchild. When Jackson was born 16 weeks preterm, weighing just one pound and eight ounces, he was too medically fragile to breast feed at first. Even if his medical condition would have allowed me to hold him, his brain lacked the developmental capacity to successfully suck, swallow, and remember to breathe. But, as a preemie, his need for breast milk was even more crucial. (Pictured is Jackson receiving his first bottle at 2 months; he learned to breastfeed at 6 months of age.)

Shortly after Jackson’s birth, I was encouraged to begin a rigorous pumping routine to stimulate my milk supply. Even though Jackson could not breastfeed, he could still greatly benefit from the immunological factors that are unique to human milk. I was blessed to have an abundant supply of milk. Unfortunately, many moms of preemies are not as lucky. The past decade has seen the proliferation of milk banks across the country to ensure babies that are unable to receive milk from their biological parent, can receive safe, donated, human milk. (If you are currently nursing and would like information about milk donation, visit the Human Milk Banking Association of North America to find the location of a milk bank near you).

As amazing and as critical as breast milk is for preemies, it often falls short in meeting the needs of the smallest and sickest babies. For these preemies, a human milk fortifier is required to ensure adequate amounts of protein, fat, vitamins and minerals are present to support the accelerated growth rate of the smallest infants. (During the first six months of life, a term infant will double its weight while a preemie’s weight will triple).

EnfamilThe only commercially sterile liquid human milk fortifier on the market is made by Mead Johnson Nutrition. Founded in 1905 by E. Mead Johnson, whose son had special health care needs complicated by feeding challenges, the company’s mission is to nourish the world’s children for the best start in life. I am very proud to announce Hand to Hold’s collaboration with Mead Johnson, which will allow Hand to Hold’s print newsletter, “Hand Prints” to be distributed to 650 Level III NICUs across the country!

“Mead Johnson Nutrition is excited to work with Hand to Hold to provide the parents of premature babies with relevant and compassionate support, so that their children may achieve the best start in life.”

Hand to Hold is honored to have earned the support of a company whose products directly benefit the lives of hundreds of thousands of babies all over the world each year. This unique and exciting collaboration will ensure parents of preemies receive information, support and education during and after a NICU stay.

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Kelli Kelley About Kelli Kelley

Founder, Hand to Hold - Kelli D. Kelley (TX) is the mother of two preemies – Jackson born at 24 weeks in 2000 and Lauren born at 34 weeks in 2003. She is the founder of Hand to Hold, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit dedicated providing support and navigation resources to families who had a preemie, who had a child in the NICU or with a special healthcare need, or who experienced loss. She has experienced the emotional fallout and isolation that having preemies often causes. As a direct result, Kelli has dedicated her life to offering hope and sanctuary to all parents who have had similar journeys. Contact her via email.


  1. Anastaziya says:

    I believe that breast milk is one of the things that saved my 23-weeker! He got his first drops of it only a few weeks after his premature birth. My little miracle baby latched perfectly on the breast at 4 months while still in the NICU. By that time, I had over a hundred tiny bottles stored for him in the freezer. He never had any problems with the digestive system and is growing up very good.

  2. My daughter was a 25 weeker weighing 1 lb 1oz. I was also on a rigorous pumping schedule where I needed to pump for 15 minutes every hour. That turned into 30 minutes because it took 15 to get the milk to come ad once it started I didn’t want to stop. I say the least I was exhausted and sore. I tried fenugreek, a prescription and kangaroo care to increase my milk. One day I walked into the NICU and an excited nurse stated that she was up to 16 ml of milk every feeding. She was elated but I wanted to cry… At that moment I knew I was done… It took 12 hours for me to get that much milk. I fed her for @3 weeks and then I had to give the responsibility to someone else. It was difficult to use the milk bank because I felt as though I had failed her again. I realized I gave her the best part of my antibodies and she was blessed to continue to get the nourishment of breast milk.

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