Premature babies need to eat at least every three hours.
Tinier babies have tinier tummies. This means she'll have to eat a lot of small meals in order for her to gain weight.
Their mouths are often extra-sensitive.
If your baby has spent her first few days with tubes and respirators in her mouth, she may assume that anything that goes into her mouth is painful, including a breast or a bottle.
Premature babies are slow to feed.
Feeding her too fast by mouth may result in a feeding aversion or spitting up. She is also likely to have more digestive problems than a full-term baby, since her digestive system may not be as mature as a full-term baby's.
Try these tips on feeding your premature infant:
- Each baby is unique. Follow the advice of your baby's doctor.
- Introduce your baby to a nipple. Even if she is still feeding by tube, this will help her adjust to bottle-feeding when she's ready. You may need to try different nipples at first.
- Stick to breast milk or one type of formula and nipple to help her adjust.
- Keep a record of your baby's feedings.
- Get growth charts, specially designed for premature babies, from your baby's doctor to help monitor her progress.
- Keep your baby on a regular schedule, to help her eat better.
- Make sure your baby is fully awake before feeding.
- Don't force your baby to eat. If she's not sucking as fast, sealing her lips or turning away, she may be full.
- Feed her on demand, not a schedule. Studies have shown that premature babies grew at a faster pace when fed on demand.
- When your baby is developmentally ready, slowly introduce solid foods while she is still on formula.
- Enlist the help and support of family and friends, to give yourself a break.