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Wirral University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust

Is it better for me to breastfeed my early (premature) baby?

Breast milk

  • Protects against germs
  • Helps baby grow
  • Is easy to digest
  • Skin contact
  • Good for you too

The body manufactures specialised proteins called antibodies to fight off infections. Mothers transfer these protective antibodies to their babies through the placenta, during the last 3 months of the pregnancy. This process is interrupted when a baby is born early. For this reason, premature babies are especially vulnerable to infection. The good news is that mothers also give their babies antibodies in breast milk. Breastfeeding your baby provides an extra line of defence against infection. Premature breast milk is extra rich in antibodies and growth factors, which are vital to normal development. Breast milk is very easy to digest and is absorbed more easily than formula. It has been observed that babies spend less time crying and more time in deep sleep as a result of skin to skin contact with their parents. It will take time to establish breastfeeding but once you have achieved this, your baby will benefit from the extra cuddles at feeding time.

Breastfeeding is good for your health too, it helps you to:

  • regain your pre pregnancy figure, since extra fat stored by the body during pregnancy is used as energy to produce milk
  • may help reduce the risk of breast and ovarian cancer

Breast milk can be given in various ways if you are unable to directly breast feed through tube feeding, cup feeding and by bottle.