Breastfeeding premature babies

When a baby is born prematurely, every second counts. And, especially when feeding babies in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), every drop of breast milk counts. It is often impossible for a premature baby to breastfeed directly, so pumping breast milk is the best solution.
Importance of breast milk

Breast milk and breastfeeding for premature babies

When feeding breast milk in the NICU, it is good to know about the importance of micronutrients in breast milk. These unique ingredients of breast milk work together to enable your baby to grow strong. Also known as ‘vitamins and minerals’, micronutrients include such substances as copper, fluoride, iodine, selenium, sodium, zinc, vitamins A, C, D, E and K, and also B-vitamins. Micronutrients offer some of the most important benefits of breastfeeding.

Feeding babies breast milk in the NICU is important

Preterm babies have more developmental hurdles to overcome than term infants. But even if a baby starts life in the NICU it does not mean that the child will be at a permanent disadvantage. Pumping breast milk in the NICU can help give your baby the best chance at growing and enjoying a healthy, normal life.

Evidence has shown that breast milk can improve a baby’s mental and physical development. Micronutrients in breast milk give your baby a head start, and every drop of milk can make all the difference to how quickly they grow strong and reach the point where they are able to go home.

Breast milk, especially colostrum, is important for premature babies, because it is their ‘first food’. Just by giving a baby breast milk, you are providing the nutrients, vitamins and minerals that they need to support a growing body and immune system. The contents of colostrum and breast milk are important for term infants and critical for preterm infants.

Breastfeeding and NICU

The benefits of breast milk in the NICU

The value of breast milk in the NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit) is immeasurable, both for the health of the newborns and the impact it has on the hospital and families. Numerous studies show that breast milk has significant benefits for babies, parents, hospitals and society as a whole:

  • shorter lengths of stay
  • a reduced number of days of oxygen therapy
  • fewer complications and re-admissions
  • improved neurodevelopmental and long-term health outcomes

Due to its individual components, its adaptable composition and its positive effects on premature baby health and development, breast milk is irreplaceable.

 

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