What nutrition will my baby need?

Premature babies will follow special feeding protocols, since some of them may be too tiny to eat on their own. They do not have the coordination of breathing, sucking and swallowing necessary to feed. In these cases, and in order to conserve baby’s energy, they will be fed through a feeding tube that runs through either their nose or mouth and into their stomach. These babies will often require additional nutrition (diets with increased calories, protein, calcium and other minerals) to help them grow.

At first, a gavage method is used for feeding. This method involves a tube placed through your baby’s nose which carries breast milk to the stomach. These tubes are called Nasogastric or Orogastric tube (NG or OG tube). If your baby’s stomach or intestines are not working, or if the baby is too sick to try to feed on milk, your baby will be given Total Parenteral Nutrition (TPN) before he/she can consume breast milk. This fluid is given through IV and is different from breast milk or formula but can contain carbohydrates, protein, fat, vitamins and minerals. TPN can be used short or long-term, depending on the needs of your preemie. Because there are risks with TPN, the shorter time required for TPN, the better. As the amount of human milk increases, the amount of TPN decreases.

Should I provide breast milk for my baby?

Yes! Breast milk has enormous health benefits.

Premature baby in NICU with eyes closed and feeding tube in nose. In preterm infants, breast milk is associated with

  • reduced infection and inflammatory disease
  • enhanced neurodevelopmental outcomes
  • healthy early postnatal growth patterns

The AAP, American Academy of Pediatrics has re-affirmed the importance of exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months for all babies. The AAP also recommends the use of breast milk for all preterm infants, preferably mother’s own milk or pasteurized donor breast milk if mom’s milk is unavailable.1

1American Academy of Pediatrics. Breastfeeding and the Use of Human Milk. Section on Breastfeeding. [Originally published online February 27, 2012]. Pediatrics. DOI: 10.1542/peds.2011-3552.