Premature infants or preemies are babies born before their due dates. For some, this may be just a few weeks early without much effect on your baby’s health or size. For others, a premature infant may be weighed in terms of grams, not pounds. Regardless of the circumstances, breastfeeding and providing your child with breast milk is still a wonderful way to help your preemie get the nutrition they need to grow strong.
Your Amazing Body
A new mom’s body is amazing in so many ways. Not only for giving birth to a beautiful little one, but also in making the milk that your premature baby needs. Breast milk moms make for premature babies has been shown to have higher components of fats, vitamins, calories, and proteins – all components your baby needs to grow stronger. Also, a mom’s milk has immune cells that can protect a preemie’s delicate immune system.
Sometimes preemies are simply too small to be able to nurse at the breast after birth. Babies do not develop the reflex to suck, swallow, and breathe to breastfeed until they are about 32 weeks’ gestation. Therefore, a baby born before this time may not be able to breastfeed just yet. Premature babies also often require a stay in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) for extra support for growth. As a result, babies may be bottle-fed or fed via a tube in their nose that goes to their stomach. This allows the NICU staff to track what your baby is eating, how their body is tolerating the food, and if your baby is gaining enough weight based on what they’re eating.
Of course, this presents a challenge for you as a mom who’s ready to breastfeed. Instead, you may need to pump your breast milk at this early stage and provide it to the hospital staff or give to your baby via a bottle.
Maintaining Your Milk Supply
Breastfeeding is a supply-and-demand undertaking, and if your little one does provide the demand in the first few weeks, it’s possible you could have supply concerns as your baby develops. If your little one isn’t eating very much at each feeding or you aren’t yet able to feed baby at the breast, try incorporating pumping sessions into your day. You can do them at regular intervals, such as every three to four hours (give yourself a break to catch a few ZZZ’s at night).
Because your baby is likely very small as a preemie, their small belly may not take in much milk during a feeding. However, they will probably feed more frequently until they grow larger and may put more time between feedings.
Try the Cross-Cradle Hold
Sometimes preemies respond better to a breastfeeding hold called the cross-cradle hold. This position helps support your baby’s head while making the breast easily accessible until your baby is strong enough not to tire from feeding. To perform this hold, place pillows on your lap or use a nursing pillow. Lay your baby across your lap so that you are chest to chest. If nursing with the left breast, hold your baby’s head in your right hand and use your left to support your breast as you offer it to your baby. To view images of this hold, visit La Leche League International.
When you give birth to a premature baby, your little one hasn’t had the same time to grow and develop in the womb as a full-term baby. If your baby was born more than three weeks early, they may not progress through the same milestones as a four-week old who was born at term. Therefore, it’s important to talk with your child’s pediatrician about what you can expect for preemie development as your little one starts to grows.
Adjusting Your Preemie’s Age
Sometimes for developmental milestones, you’ll want to adjust your baby’s age to account for the time that your baby would otherwise have been growing in your stomach. For example, if your baby is 12 weeks old, yet was six weeks premature, you’ll want to adjust their age to six weeks. While babies commonly reach milestones at a variety of ages, adjusting your preemies’ age can help you gain more realistic expectations. Keep this in mind over time as you may visit websites on motor, social, and language skills that may take your baby slightly longer to develop due to prematurity.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, most premature babies “even out” in terms of milestones by the time they’re age two. At this time, premature babies often look just like every other toddler. However, if your little one doesn’t seem to be adjusting at that time, there are services that can help. Talk to your child’s pediatrician about a possible referral to early intervention services, which can provide medical care such as physical, occupational, and speech therapy. Utilizing these services when your baby is very small can help to provide your baby with the best start and may help to reduce the incidence of motor, speech, and social differences as your child ages.
Preemie Age Adjustment Examples
Some of the changes you might expect to see with your premature baby compared to one born at term could include that a baby born eight weeks early may not sit up until they’re between six and nine months old. Because term babies typically sit up somewhere between four and seven months, this helps to account for time your baby might have spent growing and developing. While most babies will stand alone and may even start taking first steps at about 12 months of age, this timing may be different for your little one born prematurely. If you have concerns, always speak to your child’s pediatrician, yet know your little one will accomplish these in their own time.
It can be difficult for parents to reflect to the outside world about how a baby born premature is progressing. Unfortunately, many friends, family members, and even strangers may convey surprise if your 15-month old isn’t yet walking, but was born very premature. It’s important to emphasize that your little one did not get the same time to develop, but you are aware of their progress. Every baby reaches milestones according to their own unique timeline. Don’t let yourself feel bad or inadequate if this is difficult for others to understand.
While it may be hard to believe, sometimes baby products that are on the market aren’t safe at all for your little one. As a parent, add these products to your no-buy list to ensure your little one stays safe and healthy.
Don’t let the name fool you – baby powder isn’t actually safe for babies at all. Baby powders can contain talc, an ingredient that can dry the skin. However, the powder can also be inhaled into a baby’s lung where it can irritate the airways. Although talc-free baby powders are on the market, baby powder still isn’t a good idea for your baby because your little one can still inhale it. For this reason, baby powder is better left to adults.
While these decorative items may add to the overall appearance of your baby’s room, they aren’t a safe bet for babies. The American Academy of Pediatrics doesn’t recommend using crib bumpers due to the risk of suffocation. Your baby can easily roll over and into the bumpers. Maryland has even outlawed the sale of crib bumpers in the state – they are best avoided.
These cute and colorful seats are a fun way to sit your baby up – unfortunately, many parents aren’t using the seats correctly, and that makes them dangerous to the little one. For example, almost 50 infant accidents were reported due to babies being placed on kitchen countertops or dining room tables and falling. If you do purchase a Bumbo for your baby, read the directions carefully and only place the seat on the floor, not on a raised surface.
Baby walkers are those devices that you place your baby in, and it has wheels on the bottom for your baby to walk around in while supported. While it may be entertaining for you and your baby to see your little one walk before they can do so on their own, these devices unfortunately aren’t very safe. Many parents have reported accidents where babies injured themselves by rolling down a flight of stairs. An estimated 21,300 injuries are reported on a yearly basis due to baby walkers. There are better (and safer) toys out there!
Infant Bath Seats
Much like Bumbo seats, infant bath seats can be dangerous for children because the seats can tip over, resulting in drowning. These bath seats are designed to let a baby who can’t otherwise sit unsupported sit up in the bathtub. However, the seats aren’t easily secured, and parents have left babies unattended in them. This has led to more than 174 drowning deaths between 1983 and 2009, according to “Consumer Reports.”
As a new parent, all you likely hear is about how important it is for your baby to sleep on their backs or elevated if the baby has a history of acid reflux. So the purchase of a sleep positioner may initially seem like a good idea for keeping baby perfectly positioned while sleeping. Unfortunately, this just isn’t the case. Sleep positioners can actually lead to suffocation if your baby accidentally puts their face against the positioner or rolls free into bedding or other areas of the crib. More than 13 infant deaths have been linked with sleep positioners.
Breastfeeding is a beautiful and natural way to provide your baby with the nutrition they need to have the best start at life. While your baby is born with some instincts as to feeding, this doesn’t mean the breastfeeding process is painless (far from it, usually) or without its own pitfalls and hang-ups. But if you’ve got breastfeeding problems, the good news is, there is often a solution out there.
The Problem: Your Baby Won’t Latch
The Solution: The right latch is vital to breastfeeding success, but it can sometimes feel as elusive as the perfect pair of jeans. The solution is most often to go skin-to-skin with your baby, which stimulates their natural pull toward the breast. Take off your clothing from the waist up and leave baby in just their diaper. While in a reclining position, place your baby on your chest or stomach. Your baby will likely start doing the “breast crawl” toward your breast. You can then offer your breast to your baby, gently squeezing the breast like holding a sandwich. This will make your nipple protrude and can also express some milk, which will further stimulate your baby toward your breast.
If you try these tips and your baby still will not successfully latch, you may need to consider other feeding issues, such as inverted nipples or tongue-tie that keeps your baby from achieving the desired latch effect.
The Problem: It Hurts When Baby Latches On
The Solution: New moms can expect that latching on may uncomfortable as you and baby adjust to breastfeeding. However, feelings like “sensitivity” or “tender’ are normal at first, but pain isn’t. First, consider if your baby is latching onto enough of the breast. Signs that your baby’s latch is enough around the breast include the head is leaned back, chin is tucked into the breast, and nose is away from the breast. You may also want to consider applying an ointment after each feeding to reduce breast tenderness. Doctors will often prescribe an ointment that can be made at a compounding pharmacy that has an anti-fungal component to prevent breast infections. However, if you experience shooting pain in your breasts or your nipples are cracked or bleeding, these could be infection signs and warrant a trip to your doctor.
The Problem: Your Breasts Are Engorged
The Solution: Breast engorgement occurs when there is an excess of milk in your breasts. It can cause feelings of tightness and discomfort. Usually, having your baby feed will help this. However, if your breasts are very full, it’s tough for baby to get a good latch because your breasts are hard. Also, engorgement can result in a forceful let-down that may cause baby to gag and resist the breast. One way to reduce these effects is to hand-express milk or use a breast pump briefly before you feed your baby. This can reduce that initial forceful experience. As time goes on, your breasts should start to match production to your baby’s demand.
If our solutions still don’t prove the answer to your breastfeeding difficulties, contact your doctor or lactation consultant. Scheduling an appointment to discuss feeding at any age can help your baby have a better breastfeeding time – no matter what age or stage your baby is at.
Your baby goes through many periods of growth and change in their first year of life. To support brain health, strong bones, and a healthy immune system, they’ll need plenty of nutrients. While you may know vitamins and minerals like calcium, iron, and vitamin C are important for baby to get, you may not know why. Here are some often-surprising facts about nutrients your newborn needs (and how to incorporate them into baby’s diet).
1.Iron and Hemoglobin F
Hemoglobin is an important part of red blood cells because it transports oxygen throughout the body. Most people have hemoglobin A, but newborns are born with mostly hemoglobin F. This type of hemoglobin better attracts oxygen so when baby is growing in mom’s belly, they will get plenty of oxygen. Hemoglobin F lasts until baby is about six months old – then baby has more hemoglobin A. The body uses iron to make hemoglobin, including hemoglobin A. This is why a baby’s iron stores can sometimes drop after six months of age. For this reason, babies need plenty of iron – and they may not always get it through breast milk. Sometimes, doctors will recommend iron supplements or eating iron-fortified cereal or formula to ensure baby takes in enough of this important mineral. Babies also need iron to prevent symptoms like weakness, fatigue, and irritability.
2.Your Little One and Vitamin K
When your baby is born, they’ll receive a shot of vitamin K. While this may seem unusual, vitamin K is an important nutrient because it prevents the likelihood for brain bleeding. It works to promote blood clotting in the body – making it a very important nutrient! As your baby gets older, vitamin K-rich foods like spinach, soybeans, blueberries, and raspberries can all provide important sources of vitamin K.
3. Zinc’s Link to Iron
You already know why your little one needs iron to grow. But zinc is another important mineral your baby needs. First, zinc helps to prevent diarrhea – and any parent who’s ever dealt with a poo-splosion can appreciate zinc for that. Zinc also helps to build needed immune system cells. The good news about zinc is that many iron-containing foods have zinc too. That’s a bonus for you when you’re trying to find foods for your little one.
4.Vitamin D and Calcium Make a Great Team
Vitamin D and calcium are two nutrients that go together well to help the body absorb the maximal amount. Your newborn needs calcium to build strong bones and teeth (when they come in!) and vitamin D to promote bone growth and prevent the incidence of rickets, a condition that causes the bones to be weak. The good news is that both breast milk and formula will typically provide the needed calcium. However some breastfed babies may not get enough vitamin D. Ask your child’s pediatrician if you should consider a liquid supplement that can be easily mixed into a bottle of breastmilk.
Whether it’s you’re first pregnancy or your third, it’s nice to have the support of people who are experienced. That where baby groups come in. Baby groups are meetings that mom and baby can attend and socialize with other moms who are going through or have gone through similar experiences as you. So, if you don’t know much about baby groups, here are five of the best reasons to hook up with one.
A Sympathetic Ear
As a mom, who doesn’t need an occasional sympathetic ear? Sometimes you don’t want to burden other family members with details like the crying spell your baby had at the grocery store. Besides, some things only a mom can understand. When you join a baby group, you get the support and empathy of LOTS of other moms. No matter what you share, someone in the group has probably experienced it at some point – and it feels good knowing you’re not alone. In a baby group, you’re never without the support and camaraderie of other moms.
Gain Wisdom and Knowledge
Even if you’ve given birth before, you don’t know it all. Baby groups give you an opportunity to learn something new. Each mom in the group brings different experiences to the table and you have the opportunity to gain new knowledge from them. Some baby groups bring in healthcare professionals and other experts to answer baby and parenting questions on occasion. Save your questions and get answers from people who are experts on baby care and baby health. What could be better than getting your questions answered in a friendly and supportive environment?
Unwind and De-stress
Baby groups are a chance to get out of the house and be with other like-minded moms. When you’re parenting a baby or small child and immersed in their care, it feels good to connect with other adults who also happen to be moms. Though most of the talk will center about parenting and babies, you can still share your thoughts about other things and learn something new at the same time. You might discover a new book to read or a new child-friendly restaurant. It feels good to unwind, relax, and connect.
When you meet with the same moms over and over, friendships naturally form, some of them may be lifelong. Baby groups are a chance to learn AND to socialize. You might discover friends you want to socialize with outside the group. Baby groups are a fun way to meet people and bringing kids along helps break the ice.
Friends for Your Baby or Child
Since most moms bring their babies and kids to the group, your baby will have the chance to connect and bond with other babies and kids as well. Early socialization is important for a child’s development and baby groups offer babies as well as moms ample chance to mingle. It’s likely that your baby’s first friendships will be kids in the group. Who knows? Some may end up in the same class as your child later on.
Finding a Group
If a baby group sounds like what you’re looking for, how can you find one that’s right for you? Your baby’s doctor, local hospital, child care centers, community organizations, and churches are good resource. Even if they don’t offer one, they may point you in the right direction. One of the best resources is other moms. When you meet a new mom, ask if they can recommend a baby group. Don’t forget about the internet. You might find the perfect baby group in your area by networking online. Persevere until you find one that works for you.
The Bottom Line
Whether you need support, advice, or simply camaraderie, baby groups are a fun and helpful resource. Take advantage of it!
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