Special Feeding Concerns for Preemies

Special Feeding Concerns for Preemies

Preemie babies require a lot of extra care, and nutrition is no exception. Ensuring your newborn baby is getting the nutrients they need can also be stressful if you have premature baby feeding problems.

Now that you have your little one in your arms, it is very important to understand that all the care you give makes baby feel calm, safe and very happy. The best thing you can do is to understand the most critical points of your baby’s development so that they can begin to thrive. As you can imagine, the most essential point is feeding your baby.

Feeding your premature baby

The World Health Organization recommends babies are breastfed and describe it as the ideal food for babies. Breast milk is the natural first food for babies; it provides all the energy and nutrients they need.

What if I can't breastfeed my baby?

If breastfeeding is not possible, your pediatrician will manage baby’s feeding to ensure their unique nutritional needs as a premature baby are being met. The neonatologist or pediatrician will look for higher calorie density, higher protein content, medium-chain triglycerides, long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids, and mineral supplements and vitamins. Once the baby is ready to leave the hospital, the pediatrician may recommend a decrease in protein content and an increase in long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids, minerals and vitamins. The health professional will determine the quantity and frequency according to indications and individual needs.

Nutrition in premature babies

Specialists advise that your milk is the best way to feed your premature baby, regardless of gestation age or low birth weight. It provides nutrients to support their growth and development and decreases infections and encourages their neurological development. If your premature baby was under 1500 grams at birth, the nutritional content of your milk does not provide sufficient amounts of protein, sodium, phosphates, and calcium to meet their estimated needs. For a very low birth weight baby to grow at the optimum rate, the amount of protein that premature babies should receive is a level well above the values in your premature breast milk, and these levels will reduce over time. Nutritional supplements known as “breast milk fortifiers,” which can be mixed with breast milk, are available in liquid and powder form.

Premature babies and vitamin D deficiency

Premature infants are frequently deficient in

, which is important for good bone health, along with calcium and phosphorus. It is therefore advisable to fortify human milk with this vitamin and provide adequate amounts of minerals. Premature formulas generally have higher levels of these micronutrients than routine formulas.

Do preemie babies need iron supplements?

It is recommended that your premature baby receives iron supplements; since neither breastfeeding nor formulas provide adequate levels of iron. Remember that if they have an iron deficiency, your premature baby may be anemic, affecting brain development. Therefore, your baby must receive the right amount of this essential element in their development.

Monitoring your premature baby’s growth

As the parent of a preemie baby, you will become all too familiar with tests. These tests will help monitor your baby’s progress and growth, ensuring they are getting the care and nutrition they need to thrive. Here are some of the tests you can expect:

  • Blood tests: Many tests are done to collect information on your baby’s status.
  • Urinalysis: A bag will be put over your baby’s genitals to collect and test their urine and rule out infections or other problems.
  • Transfusion: Your baby will likely receive a blood transfusion; however, you must remember that this is part of their treatment.
  • Eye examination: If your baby is very small, their eyes will be inspected periodically.
  • Hearing tests: These are performed before your baby is discharged from the hospital. If any results are uncertain, additional tests will be required.
  • X-rays: These give the doctors an overview of your child’s condition.
  • Heart and brain ultrasound: These are studies which enable the organ structure to be visualized very clearly to rule out different problems. This procedure does not use radiation.

Premature baby feeding concerns: Necrotizing enterocolitis

If you are having trouble feeding your premature baby, there is also a possibility they have developed necrotizing enterocolitis. It is one of the most common and serious intestinal disease among premature babies. Necrotizing enterocolitis happens when tissue in the small or large intestine is injured or inflamed. This can lead to death of intestinal tissue and, in some cases, a hole (perforation) in the intestinal wall. If you notice your baby has any of the following symptoms, contact your pediatrician.

  • A swollen, red, or tender belly
  • Trouble feeding
  • Food staying in the stomach longer than expected
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea and/or dark or bloody poop
  • A low or unstable body temperature
  • Green vomit (containing bile)
  • Pauses in breathing
  • Slowed heart rate
  • Low blood pressure

We know that having a premature baby can bring up a lot of questions that you probably weren’t anticipating, but don’t worry, this is perfectly normal. Your team of healthcare professionals will ensure your baby is getting the nutrition they need.