This time can be exciting and stressful. The mum is anxious for the baby to latch on readily and nurse effectively. Some latch on immediately and learn to nurse quickly and proficiently. A great many, though, face challenges at this time. Because all babies are different and each learns to breastfeed in their own manner and at their own speed, a mother can become easily discouraged and frustrated if breastfeeding does not come instantaneously. Nipple confusion, refusal to latch on, difficulty co-ordinating suck and swallow reflexes, or a weak suck are some of the normal premature complications that can contribute to difficulty in learning to breastfeeding.
More than anyone, your premature baby needs your breast milk. So, although expressing and feeding your baby takes a lot out of you, stick with it. You will be glad you did when your baby starts thriving soon. You could however give your baby a couple of formula feeds during the day, to help her gain weight and to give you a much needed break and rest from expressing. The extra stress, discomfort, and fatigue that go along with the birth of a premature baby can cause a slow start with milk production. In the first few days after giving birth, mothers may make just drops of milk each time they use the breast pump, so it is easy to get discouraged. Remember, these drops are like a medicine for your baby, because they provide protection from infection. And– this slow start usually gives way to an adequate milk supply by the fifth or sixth day after birth.
It is a challenge to breastfeed following preterm delivery. However, it is worth all the effort when you see your baby growing and developing. Breastfeeding your baby will also help to provide a special closeness between you and your baby, which will help to make up for the time that you have been separated following birth. If you need help and advice do ask the nurses that are caring for your baby or if you are at home please contact the Australian Breastfeeding Association for support and advice.