MONDAY 1 AUGUST 2022
This week, 1st - 7th August, is World Breastfeeding Week, a global campaign that aims to strengthen the warm chain of support for breastfeeding, that includes health systems, workplaces and communities at all levels of society.
Breast milk is important for all babies, but for premature and sick newborns, it provides vitally important health benefits and acts like a medicine that only a mother can provide. Research has shown that the composition of a mother’s breast milk is different if her baby is born premature than if her baby was born full-term. It is tailored to the needs of a premature gut and is highly beneficial for your baby.
Although at times it can be exhausting and challenging, most mothers find that providing breast milk for their baby is one of the more beneficial and rewarding things they can do.
Did you know?
Premature and very low birthweight babies usually receive parenteral nutrition (PN or also known as TPN Total Parenteral Nutrition) in the first few days or weeks of being born.
This may include protein, carbohydrate, fat, minerals and electrolytes, vitamins and other trace elements for premature or sick babies. PN is a method of feeding that bypasses the gastrointestinal track. Expressed Breast Milk and formula could also be provided through a tube feed through the mouth or nose direct to your baby’s stomach.
Breastmilk has many important benefits, especially for babies born premature or sick
Just like expressing, breast feeding is a skill so if it doesn’t work out the first time you try, don’t be discouraged. With a little patience and perseverance, you will learn how to establish breast feeding together.
“Breastfeeding wasn’t as easy as I had imagined, which also made me feel very down. As my baby Harmony grew bigger and stronger, it became a little easier and with the help of some motilium, I managed four months of combined formula and breastfeeding. My advice to new mums is don't be afraid to ask for help; it wasn't until two weeks after Harmony’s birth that a midwife gave me advice on expressing and medication to assist with milk flow. I wish I’d asked for help earlier.”
– Daniela, Miracle Mum to Harmony born at 34 weeks
The requirements for collecting breast milk for sick or premature babies in hospital are more stringent than those applying to collecting milk for healthy babies at home. Midwives, lactation consultants, early childhood nurses and the Australian Breastfeeding Association counsellors are available to provide advice about expressing, both in hospital and at home.
Generally, a premature baby’s digestive system is ready for milk feeds before they are actually able to coordinate all the muscles needed for sucking, swallowing and breathing.
In order to receive the milk, a small thin tube called a naso-gastric tube (NG tube) is passed through their nose or mouth, and down into their stomach.
“My first miracle baby was tube fed for the first seven days with my expressed breast milk. On day seven, I was allowed to see if he could cope with small feeds and he did amazingly. Expressing for the first time was awkward. I had a great supply but it didn't feel right; there should have been a baby on the end of my bosom.”
– Linda, Miracle Mum to Zaclan born at 39+3 weeks and Dylan born at 32 weeks
If you decide to bottle feed, your baby’s healthcare team will be helpful in deciding when they are ready to try a bottle for the first time. Just as with breast feeding, premature babies need time to grow and gain strength and learn to coordinate their sucking, swallowing and breathing effectively.
Although breast milk is the best nutritional choice for your baby, breastfeeding may not always be possible. Premature babies usually require formula that contains higher levels of iron, fat, protein, calcium, phosphorous, magnesium and several other vitamins. These special formulas help your baby to grow faster. Your team of health professionals will recommend the most appropriate one for your baby.
Support is available:
Miracle Babies NurtureLine: 1300 622 243
Australian Breastfeeding Association (ABA) Breastfeeding Helpline:
1800 mum 2 mum | 1800 686 268
Ask your pharmacist about Infloran Paediatric Flora Care. Used by NICUs across Australia.
Infloran Paediatric Flora Care is a probiotic safe for premature and sick newborns which helps with gastrointestinal immune function, promoting healthy digestion and maintaining beneficial flora during antibiotic use.
Infloran Paediatric Flora Care - carefully selected, evidence based.
Ask your pharmacist to order or available online at https://www.infloran.com.au.
Always read the label. Use only as directed. If symptoms persist, talk to your healthcare professional.