Breastfeeding is important for every baby and even more so if they arrive early. Your body will naturally produce milk that is specifically designed for premature babies with extra calories, vitamins and protein. Breastmilk also protects babies from infection which is especially important for premature babies who face a higher risk of infection because their immune systems are especially under developed. Formula doesn’t provide the antibodies and protective supplements that are only found in breastmilk.
 
For many hospitals, it is standard practice to start off feeding premature babies expressed breast milk as they may be unable to directly feed from the breast. You should speak to a lactation expert and your G.P. about developing a plan for feeding your premature baby expressed milk. Once your baby is ready to start nursing from the breast you should be prepared to nurse frequently. You may need to pump after feedings to keep your milk production up as your premature baby may not take in as much milk and breastmilk production is based on a supply and demand basis. You may need to use different breastfeeding holds to breastfeed your premature baby. You should speak to a lactation expert who will be able to offer advice on the most suitable hold.
 
Depending on how early your baby is born, your baby may be too immature to breastfeed after birth. You will need to rent or buy a hospital grade pump in order to express your milk. Once your baby is ready to nurse from the breast, learning how to latch on and suck effectively can be difficult but again speaking to a lactation expert will help. It’s important to note that it’s always harder to feed a baby who’s distressed or crying from hunger. In order to avoid this, you should learn to recognise your baby’s feeding cues. You should aim to feed your baby at least every three hours (about 8 feedings every 24 hours) and don’t be afraid to wake her while she’s asleep if she’s due a feed. 
 
Breastfeeding your premature baby may seem difficult but the benefits are endless and by choosing to breastfeed you are providing your precious little one with the best possible start in life. 

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