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7 Reasons Why Mother’s Milk is Important For Child’s Health & Survival

Breast milk has growth factors, minerals, and hormones that support the growth and development of your baby.

Breastfeeding a Premature Baby: 7 Reasons Why Breastmilk Is Important for Child Health and Survival

Breastfeeding a premature baby: Babies born before 37 weeks of full gestation are called premature babies. They often face many challenges and risks, such as low birth weight, infections, developmental delays, and stress. Breast milk is one of the best ways to protect and nourish premature babies, either by expression or direct breastfeeding. Breast milk has numerous short- and long-term benefits for preterm infants. India.com contacted Dr. Sanjay Wazir, a neonatologist and pediatrician, who revealed that breastfeeding a premature baby can be challenging, but not impossible. The expert also shares the benefits of breastfeeding for premature babies.

Benefits of breastfeeding for premature babies

Mothers of premature babies need information, encouragement, and support from health care providers, family members, and peers to initiate and maintain breastfeeding. Some of the ways to support breastfeeding for premature babies are:

  1. Provide early and frequent skin-to-skin contact between mothers and premature babies.
  2. Help mothers start expressing breast milk as soon as possible after delivery, preferably within six hours.
  3. Provide mothers with adequate equipment, education and assistance in expressing breast milk.
  4. Feed premature babies tube or cup expressed breast milk until they are ready to breastfeed directly.
  5. Offer pasteurized donor human milk when the mother’s own milk is not available or sufficient.
  6. Help mothers establish direct breastfeeding when preterm infants are stable and mature enough.
  7. Provide ongoing lactation support after hospital discharge.
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Nutritional benefits of breastfeeding

Breast milk is the best source of nutrition for all babies, but it is especially important for premature babies, who have different nutritional needs than full-term babies. The breast milk generated by premature newborn mothers is tailored to their individual needs. It contains more protein, fat, salt, zinc, free amino acids, and fatty acids than breast milk. The nutrients in question help in the growth and development of intelligence, vision, neurological systems and bones in premature babies.

Immunological benefits of breastfeeding

  • Breast milk is not only a food, but also a medicine. It contains antibodies and other disease-fighting factors that protect newborns against infection and disease. This is especially critical for premature babies, who are more susceptible to infections than full-term babies. Breast milk can help prevent or lessen the severity of common premature problems such as necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC), sepsis, respiratory infections, and retinopathy of prematurity (ROP).
  • Breast milk also helps in the establishment of a healthy gut microbiota in preterm infants. The gut microbiome is an ecosystem of bacteria and other microorganisms that inhabit the digestive tract. It is crucial for digestion, immunity and metabolism. Breast milk includes helpful bacteria and prebiotics that help preterm infants develop a balanced and diverse gut microbiota.

Developmental Benefits of Breastfeeding

  • Breast milk not only promotes physical growth in premature babies, but also cognitive, emotional and social development. Breast milk contains hormones, growth factors, and bioactive compounds that promote brain development and function. Breastfed preterm infants have higher IQ scores, greater language skills and a lower incidence of behavioral disorders than formula-fed preterm infants, according to studies.
  • Breastfeeding also allows mothers and preterm infants to bond in a unique way. Breastfeeding increases the production of oxytocin, a hormone that improves maternal connection and decreases stress. Skin-to-skin contact during breastfeeding also helps premature babies regulate their internal temperature, heart rate, breathing, and blood sugar levels. Breastfeeding can also increase the self-esteem and satisfaction of women who may feel apprehensive or guilty about their preterm birth.
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Being a mother is a gift that lasts a lifetime!

Published Date: May 26, 2023 3:08 PM IST




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