Feeding your premature baby
It's stressful enough when your baby comes earlier than expected and is so small, the last thing you need to worry about is confusing feeding advice. Here's the latest information for preterm nutrition.
preterm baby nutrition

Approximately eight percent of babies in New Zealand are born prematurely (before 37 weeks gestation), according to statistics from the Minstry of Health.

To give premmie babies the best start in life, breast milk is encouraged as the first choice of nutrition. Breast milk has been shown to reduce the risk common issues in neonates, such as necrotising enterocolitis - a condition where sections of the bowel tissue die. As well as this, the common cognitive benefits of breast milk for all infants appear to be even more pronounced in preterm babies.

If a premature infant has a birth weight below 2000gm, it’s important to note that they may have even more increased nutritional demands. Those born at less than 32 weeks’ gestation usually require fortification of breast milk with protein and calories in the preterm period in order to promote adequate growth.

The sodium and protein in breast milk declines throughout lactation, and calcium and phosphorous content is insufficient for growing preterm infants, so increased protein, energy and minerals may be provided by combining breast milk with a commercially prepared fortifier. Preterm breastfed infants will also require iron supplements from four-eight weeks of age.

When there is insufficient breast milk available, infant formula may be required. For more information and advice, visit www.earlylifenutrition.org



In a nutshell:

  • Breastfeeding reduces the risk or severity of a number of conditions in infancy and later life, including necrotising enterocolitis in preterm infants.
  • Breastfeeding also has significant cognitive benefits, which appear to be more pronounced in preterm infants.
  • In addition to breastfeeding for as long as possible, preterm breastfed infants require iron supplements from four to eight weeks of age.
  • Those born at less than 32 weeks’ gestation usually require fortification of breast milk with protein and calories in the preterm period, in order to promote adequate growth.
This article was written by Melanie Hearse and adapted for Kidpsot, New Zealand's favourite parenting resource for Early Life Nutrition.
Breastfeeding is best for babies and provides many benefits. Combined breast and bottle feeding in the first weeks of life may reduce the supply of your own breast milk. Always consult your doctor, midwife or health care professional for advice about feeding your baby. This post is part of the Early Life Nutrition story.
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