Feeding a premature baby

A premature baby may not be able to feed by himself for the first few weeks. It all depends on how early he was born and how healthy and heavy he is.

At the start, he may need to be fed a special formula intravenously. Then he will be able to be fed milk directly into his stomach through a tube. After that he will gradually start drinking from his mother’s breast or a bottle.

Premature babies’ digestive systems are immature (not yet developed). Premature babies are also more susceptible to certain infections.

Breast milk is easily digested and contains antibodies that help prevent infections. The medical team will encourage you to express your milk to give to your baby. Breast milk meets all the special needs of your premature baby. By expressing your milk, you are helping care for your baby. If you weren’t planning to breast-feed your child, it’s never too late to change your mind.

If your baby is born very prematurely, minerals or calories may be added to the milk you express for a time.

If your child is not breastfed, special milk for premature babies will be used.

Antibodies: Substances made by the body to fight off disease. Also called immunoglobulins.

Express: Pump or squeeze milk from the mother’s breast.