To read the previous entry, go to Factors that Influence a Baby’s Weight Gain.
Concerning weight gain in a premature baby, you need to first identify the degree of prematurity. A baby born at 37 weeks minus 1 day is identified as a premature baby. But it won’t have the same sucking capacity as a premature baby born between 30 and 36 weeks, or a very premature baby born between 23 and 30 weeks.
When breastfeeding a premature baby, it’s difficult for those born before 34 weeks to coordinate their sucking reflex with breathing and swallowing. We see babies suck in short bursts rapidly but their lips have blue contours as they’re not properly breathing at the same time. This is directly associated with the immaturity of their brain. It must adapt to the reality of life outside the uterus. Each baby will have their challenges to face. However, many times I have seen very small babies drink impressive amounts and fight to live. Just because a baby is born at 35 weeks doesn’t mean they will have problems with feeding. They have everything they need to be breastfed by their mother. All we have to do is help her with milk flow and encourage the baby to take her breast.
It’s preferable to give the mother’s milk to a baby born before term. All the virtues of breast milk will have a major impact on the premature baby’s health as this milk:
- Is easier to digest;
- Is better tolerated by the baby;
- Contains more antibodies to fight several potential infections;
- Contains essential fatty acids to help brain development and provide the baby with energy to feed;
- And much more…
On the other hand, most of the time the mother must stimulate their milk production mechanically. They will use a double electric breast pump to start the demand in her system. The pumped milk will then be used to force-feed or complete a feeding for the baby, who isn’t always able to do it themselves. It might be necessary to use supplementation, the use of a feeding tube, if breastfeeding isn’t going well despite all efforts to help the mother. But this isn’t routine.
It isn’t always easy to consider all these elements and monitor the changes in your baby’s weight. Health professionals monitor your baby to ensure that they’re gaining weight properly. They check if they are growing in size and the monitor the growth of their head based on their pace and characteristics after birth. I hope this entry will help you understand this health dimension of your baby, which is often a concern for parents.
The Baby Expert