Breastfeeding Your Premature Or Sick Baby
Some babies are born too early or born needing some extra health care. We know that breast milk is ideal for human babies and early or sick babies are no different. For them having colostrum and breast milk will not only give them nourishment but will also help their tummies to mature (for solid food later on) and fight infection. This is because your colostrum and later breast milk has all the immunity, hormones and growth factors needed for your baby.
You are understandably going to be worried if your baby has to go to for some special care; and you’ll likely not be able to concentrate on anything and you’ll just want to be with your little one. Your health professionals will keep you fully informed of what is happening and as soon as you can you will be able to go and see your baby.
Going into a special care unit can be very scary as there will be lots of different types of equipment looking after all of the babies. But try and just concentrate on your baby and know that you will be able to get involved with their care.
You may not have already chosen how you wish to feed your baby and if you were likely to use artificial milk, you may want to consider expressing your colostrum and then your breast milk to support your baby at this vulnerable time.
Your health professionals will support you however you decide to feed your baby, but knowing simple techniques about how to hand express can get you off to a good start.
Ask your health professionals if they can provide you with a photograph of your baby. It may be scary seeing your baby for the first time in an incubator but that is the best place for him/her at that time. You could ask for something material that has been in contact with your baby’s skin – the smell of your baby may help you express your breastmilk.
Your breasts have been developing throughout pregnancy for this moment when you start to give your baby colostrum. Below are some tips on expressing your colostrum to give to your baby:
- Always wash and dry your hands. Make sure you are sitting comfortably and are relaxed. Make sure you have a sterile container to hand to collect your colostrum
- Gently massage your breast with either the tips of your fingers or your knuckles – be gentle you can easily bruise your breasts
- Make a ‘C’ shape with your hand just behind your areola
- Gently press your thumb and fingers toward each other through your breast and then push forward
- Let go of your breast enough to move your fingers and thumb back to their original position – behind your areola
- Repeat this technique until you get a rhythm going – remember to release your hold so that you are not rubbing your fingers on your breast skin as this will cause soreness
- Make sure not to place your fingers on to your areola or nipple as this will cause pain and you won’t express any colostrum
- You may need to move your hand to a different part of your breast before you see any colostrum released. Try not to worry – try massaging again, you may need to move your fingers either further away or nearer to the areola
- Try using something to warm your breasts. You may not be able to get into a shower or a bath straight away or have a warm flannel handy so you could use Lansinoh® 3 in 1 Thera°Pearl Hot and Cold Breast Therapy
- Your health professional can let you know which feeding method your baby will receive your colostrum through
Giving birth to your baby before you expect to and to be separated straight away is a great wrench on your maternal instincts and need to protect. No one wants to be separated from their baby but if you find that it happens hopefully you will be able to make plans of how you want to feed your baby. And you should be able to still hold your baby in skin to skin when your health professionals are happy your baby is well enough to do so.