Breastfeeding has many benefits for the mother and the baby. Breast milk is important for premature infants as it can help them to keep various conditions, diseases, allergies, and infections at bay. New mothers should breastfeed as per the doctor’s recommendation.
Premature babies (preemies) are born earlier than the expected 37 to 42 weeks gestation. As the premature baby’s organs are often not fully developed, they have chances of various health issues such as breathing problems, infection, anemia, and low blood sugar. Thus, a premature baby’s nutrition will get neglected at the beginning. But, breast milk will help to improve the overall well-being of infants.
Dr Meeta Nakhare, Gynecologist, Lokmanya Hospital, Pune said, “The causes behind preterm birth can be pregnant with twins, triplets or other multiples, problems with the uterus, cervix or placenta, smoking or using illicit drugs, high blood pressure, and diabetes, being underweight or overweight before pregnancy, stressful events like the death of a loved one or domestic violence and trauma. Some premature babies will not be able to accept feeds at the beginning as their immune system is not fully developed. Even the gastrointestinal tract of premature babies is often not properly developed, so they must be fed very slowly via a tube that is placed through the mouth or nose directly into the stomach. But, it is vital to give breast milk to the babies as it contains antibodies that help fight disease and prevent infection, a benefit crucial to vulnerable preemies. Breastfeeding helps to prevent especially necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC), a dangerous disease in which parts of the bowel become inflamed and damaged and start to die. Breast milk helps to take care of the gut, and allows brain development. Preterm milk has higher concentrations of protein, sodium, and chloride, and lower concentrations of lactose. Premature breast milk also carries different types of fat that your baby can easily digest. Breast milk is important for a mother’s health too. It helps the mother to keep breast and ovarian cancer at bay, bond with the baby, reduce stress and there is also less post-partum depression. The baby in the NICU is fragile and requires prompt medical attention.”
Dr Nitin Gupte, Gynecologist, Apollo Spectra Pune added, “A mother’s milk is produced around two to four days after the birth but f one delivers prematurely then the milk production can get delayed. So, it is important to start expressing breast milk as soon as possible. Kangaroo care helps to build a strong bond in premature babies. For new mothers, it helps with higher volumes of expressed milk. So, try to follow all the instructions and breastfeed the baby as suggested by the doctor.”