The role of breast milk in premature baby’s survival explains gynaecologist Dr Aruna Kalra

Dr Aruna Kalra, Senior Gynaecologist and Obstetrician at CK Birla Hospital, Gurugram is here to explain the role of breast milk in preterm survival.
The role of breast milk in premature baby’s survival explains gynaecologist Dr Aruna Kalra
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A normal pregnancy period lasts for about 40 weeks. If a pregnant woman delivers the baby before the 37th week, then the birth of the baby is considered premature or preterm. The last weeks of pregnancy are the most crucial period for the health and development of the baby inside the womb. During the last weeks, the baby gets a healthy weight gain. Also, the full development of the baby’s organs, including the brain and lungs, happen during this time. That is why preterm babies need extra care as they are prone to have more medical problems.

Breast Milk is the most ideal food for a premature baby. It provides optimal nutrition to the baby. Breastfeeding a premature baby is an effective way to enhance his/her growth and development. Even if a mother is unable to breastfeed at first because of preterm delivery, she can express the milk from her breast after birth. The milk can be fed to the baby via a tube or can let the baby sip from a tiny bottle. 

Importance and Role of Breast Milk for Premature Babies:

The mothers who experience a preterm delivery produce breastmilk that is slightly different from the one that is produced during normal delivery. This milk is generally known as premature milk and is high in protein and minerals and has fats that are easy for the preterm baby to digest and absorb. These nutrients present in breast milk enhance the development of baby’s organs, tissues and brain. Mother’s milk also contains high concentrations of antibodies that help the baby fight infections. 

Doctors highly recommend breast milk for preterm babies because of the following reasons:

- A mother’s breast milk is specifically tailored for her baby. 

- Breast milk prevents damage to the immature digestive system of a preterm baby. 

- A very little amount of waste is created in the baby’s body with the mother’s breast milk and the elimination of this waste won’t affect the immature kidneys of the baby.

- Breast Milk helps the baby in fighting infections and other medical problems.

- Premature breast milk contains higher nutrients than full-term breast milk and hence, it is very beneficial for the baby.

Expressing Breastmilk

If a mother’s new born is too small or ill to breastfeed, she can still express her breastmilk with the help of a pump in order to establish and maintain an adequate milk supply. It is advised to begin expressing breast milk right after the birth of the baby at regular intervals (for at least 6-8 times a day, approximately the number of times the baby would usually feed). This encourages milk production and even provides nipple stimulation. For the mothers of premature babies, it is required to pump the breast milk for at least about 100 minutes a day. This is the minimum requirement in order to maintain breast milk supply for many weeks (if the baby is premature or ill).

When the baby is stable and comes home, the mother should, right after, start to breastfeed her baby directly through her breast without using any bottle. 

Inputs by Dr Aruna Kalra – Senior Gynaecologist and Obstetrician at CK Birla Hospital, Gurugram

Also Read: 7 Early pregnancy complications moms to be should know about to have a healthy baby