While the neonatal staff attends to your infant, the obstetric staff will care for you. Depending on your condition, this will take at least a few hours. Meanwhile, your birth partner may want to go with your infant to the NICU.
Before your breast milk comes in (3 or 4 days after childbirth), you will be asked to decide whether you plan to breast-feed or bottle-feed your premature infant. Formula does not give your infant added protection from early infection, so strongly consider pumping milk for your infant for at least the first weeks of life. If you decide to breast-feed, expect at first to pump milk for feedings until your infant is mature enough to feed orally.
Breast milk contains antibodies that help protect your vulnerable infant against early, serious infections, including sepsis and necrotizing enterocolitis, as well as ear and upper respiratory infections during early childhood.
The benefits of breast milk over formula include better nutrient absorption, digestive functioning, and nervous system development.
Both specialized formula and breast milk can offer your infant excellent nutrition.
Pumping and breast-feeding can be one of the most beneficial and rewarding things you do for your premature infant. But it may also be hard and exhausting. If you cannot breast-feed, decide not to breast-feed, or find that you have to discontinue doing so, formula feeding will meet your infant's nutritional needs.
Your hospital's lactation consultant can be very helpful with pumping and breast-feeding questions and problems, both before and after the birth.