Other forms of feeding

Total Parental Nurtrition

TPN is a method of providing total nutrition to premature or very sick babies through an IV or umbilical catheter directly into the blood stream. TPN provides nutrients such as sugar (glucose), fat (lipids), protein, electrolytes and vitamins when a baby cannot have milk feeds. For very premature babies, TPN may be their only source of nutrition. As they grow and milk feeds begin, the amount of TPN a baby receives will be decreased as milk feeds increase.

Tube Feeding

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. Your baby’s feed can then be pushed down the tube with a syringe or sometimes an electric pump may be used to continuously push the milk down.

“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, mum to Zaclan born at 39+3 weeks and Dylan born at 32 weeks

Breast Milk Fortifiers

A baby born prematurely may sometimes benefit from receiving expressed breast milk with a milk fortifier. A commercially prepared breast milk fortifier is a powder made from processed cows’ milk protein with additional supplements. When combined with breast milk, the fortifier provides additional energy, protein, minerals and vitamins to help your baby grow more quickly.
By the time your baby is ready for discharge, they should be feeding completely at the breast or bottle, and growing well enough that they no longer require additional milk fortifiers. Your baby’s doctor or dietician will let you know if you still need to add fortifiers once your baby comes home.

Breast Feeding

Premature babies need time to grow, gain strength and learn to coordinate their sucking, swallowing and breathing effectively. They may spend some days or weeks receiving their milk through a naso-gastric tube before they are ready to try nursing at the breast.

Just like expressing breast feeding is a skill so if it doesn’t work out the first time you try, don’t get 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, mum to Harmony born at 34 weeks

Bottle Feeding

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.

It’s important to remember that during a feed a premature baby may be sleepy or tire easily and can need more time and patience during a feed. The more bottle feeds you give your baby, the more comfortable you will both be and the better your baby will feed.

Formula Feeding

Although breast milk is the best nutritional choice for your baby, breastfeeding may not always be possible. If you have chosen to formula feed, your baby will receive formula developed for their nutritional needs. 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.

“I expressed for five weeks but I found that the stress of that, plus having my baby in hospital, was just too much so I decided to switch to formula. The nurses were super supportive and their ‘you do what is right for you, you have too many other things to worry about’ attitude was so helpful.” – Carly, mum to Finley born at 28+5 weeks

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