101: Preterm milk

By Abby Johnston
If a woman delivers a preterm infant, the composition of their milk is different. Your amazing body cleverly meets the unique needs of your premature or low-birth-weight baby.

When you deliver your baby before you due date, your breastmilk knows! It has higher levels of energy, lipids, protein, nitrogen and fatty acids, as well as some extra vitamins and minerals. It also contains extra immunoglobulins (immune cells) and anti-inflammatory elements, when compared with full-term breastmilk.

On top of all the nutrition, the process of breastfeeding is overwhelmingly described by preterm mothers, who are often separated from their infants for periods of time, as an experience that strengthened their bond.

In most studies, the benefits have been shown to outweigh the effort for the mothers of preterm infants, most often due to the “physical closeness and intimacy” and the empowerment that came with knowing they’d made “a unique contribution toward their infants care”.

If your preterm baby is struggling to feed, your health care staff can help - with a variety of devices designed to ease them into an infancy of breastfeeding. Commonly used equipment includes supplementers (supply lines), cups, syringes, bottles and breast pumps. Supplementers can be used with your pumped milk, or with formula as needed.

Your body knows what your baby needs, and it brings the goods - so where possible, share your superpower.

 





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