Will my late pre-term infant face special nursing challenges?
Babies are born when they’re born; some will come right on time, while others arrive early or well past their due date. Babies born over 34 weeks are typically defined as “late pre-term.” Late pre-term babies have their own set of unique needs and issues when it comes to breastfeeding. Sometimes these babies will act (and look) like a full term infant, and sometimes they will act like a preemie. This can be very confusing to a new family when they are trying to coordinate feedings, sleep and just life with a newborn in general.
Late pre-term babies are predisposed to certain health issues, such as jaundice, excessive sleepiness, feeding difficulties, hypothermia, hypoglycemia and low muscle tone. Once the baby grows a bit, these issues will typically resolve but they can be very challenging and worrying for new parents.
One of the biggest challenges for late pre-term infants is their readiness to breastfeed. These infants are still trying to coordinate the suck, swallow and breathe pattern needed for feeding. They are also notoriously sleepy. So sleepy in fact, many moms assume the infant is satisfied at the breast when, in reality, baby might just be napping. A new mother’s milk supply is so fragile at this point that if an infant cannot empty her breast, she will become at risk for low milk supply issues.
Here is a game plan for nursing the late pre-term infant:
- We cannot stress enough how important skin to skin contact is. A good suggestion is to wear the baby in a sling or carrier as often as you can.
- Work closely with an IBCLC and your pediatrician. Having a great team to monitor your baby’s growth and to support you are priceless.
- Feed baby early and often. Late pre-term babies tend to do shorter, more frequent feedings.
- Provide jaw and head support to the baby when latching on
- Establish your milk supply by pumping or hand expressing milk.
- Supplementation may be recommended by your pediatrician if medically necessary.
Try not to compare your baby to other babies that were born “on time.” Late pre-term infants may need extra time to catch up developmentally. Patience is key!
Struggling with your late pre-term baby’s nursing issues? Reach out to a healthcare professional on our team for personalized care for you and your baby.