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Feeding Your Premature Infant - Topic Overview

Breast-feeding your premature baby continued...

If you are undecided about breast-feeding, consider keeping your options open. You can pump to keep your milk supply going until you've had time to decide. Any amount of breast milk offers your premature infant greater protection from infection than no breast milk at all. But keep in mind that anything you put in your body can be passed to your baby in breast milk. If you are breast-feeding, do not drink alcohol, take drugs, or smoke. And before you take any kind of medicine, herb, or vitamin, ask your doctor if it is safe.

In some cases, your health care team may suggest that you use donated breast milk from an accredited milk bank. To find out more about this, including how much it costs, talk with your doctor, nurse, or lactation consultant.

Pumping milk

Regular pumping keeps up your milk production for when your infant is ready to breast-feed. You may also need to pump your breast milk so that your baby has it for tube-feedings. If your infant can't digest milk yet and needs intravenous feedings, your milk will be frozen for future use.

While you are still in the hospital, talk to a lactation consultant and become familiar with the double electric breast pump.

Like most new things, pumping for your infant will get easier with practice. Pump as often as your infant feeds, about every 2 to 3 hours, and at least once at night. Bring your labeled bottles or bags of milk with you to feed your infant or to freeze for later use.

Benefits of breast milk

Breast milk has proven benefits, especially for the fragile premature infant. Benefits of breast milk over formula include better immunity to dangerous infections, nutrient absorption, digestive function, and nervous system development. So your hospital is likely to strongly encourage you to provide breast milk for your infant during the first weeks of life, at a minimum. A lactation consultant can be very helpful with pumping and breast-feeding questions and problems, both before and after the birth.

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