Baby’s stay in NICU can be stressful and emotionally taxing. Mother’s often miss the initial bonding and feeding. It is really important to feed term or pre-term babies with breast milk after they are born. If mother’s can’t breastfeed directly to ill or preterm babies then mother’s have choice to express their milk instead of feeding formula milk.
What makes breast milk so special?
Breast-milk is a unique fluid containing essential nutrients – anti-infective factors, hormones, enzymes, specialized growth factors, anti-inflammatory mediators, specific nutrients. There are various studies stating importance of breast milk for term as well as preterm babies. Recognizing the importance, Unicef and WHO in 1990 came up with Innocenti declaration stating infants should be fed breast milk up to 4 to 6 months. This provided ideal nutrition transfer – helped in reduction of neonatal morbidity.
Breast milk for premature babies
Premature babies spend comparatively lesser time in womb, depriving of basic nutrients required for growth. They are easily susceptible to illness and stunned growth. For first few weeks- mother’s of premature babies secrete milk with higher fat, proteins, minerals and antibody ( immunoglobulin G) required for their growth.
Premature babies face issues of improper digestion. Antibody and enzyme also help in intestinal digestion making preemies less susceptible to intestinal infections.
Prof. Peter Hartmann founder of Human lactation research group in Australia says, “Every drop counts”. A premature baby is likely to recover faster from illness and sepsis when fed with breast-milk.
Facts on Breast-milk:
- Breast milk is the first choice in neonates, whether term or preterm.
- There are significant clinical benefits to providing breast milk in the preterm infant.
- Expressed breast milk can be frozen for later use.
- Human milk fortification should be considered in babies with a birth weight of < 2000 g.
Once your baby is ready to be held, gradually shift from tubes to breast feeding. Caring for and learning to breastfeed a premature or ill newborn is emotionally taxing for any new mother. Ask for help from nicu nurses to first initiate. It usually takes sometime for baby to latch. Gradually as they develop and get stronger, they will be able to breastfeed directly. During breastfeed, skin to skin contact promotes warmth and bonding between mother and baby.
Benefits of breast-feeding moms
Lot of mothers who breastfeed feel fulfillment and joy with physical and emotional bonding. Hormones like prolactin and oxytocin are secreted releasing strong sense of nurturing and bonding between mother and baby. There are recent studies stating breastfeeding reduces risks of breast and ovarian cancer.
Once baby is home from hospital, breastfeeding can be continued till 4-6 months. Later stages, mothers can express breast milk and store, especially when baby grows and need increases. Additionally, emotional and practical support from loved ones goes extra mile to support new moms.