Breastfeeding plays a very important role in an LBW baby, as it:
- Helps gain weight and achieve catch-up growth
- Protects baby from diarrhoea and severe respiratory infections
- Reduces the risk of feeding intolerance, visual problems.
- Provides the baby warmth as the mother cuddles and holds the baby close to her body.
Nutrient-rich preterm mother’s milk: Although a mother delivers a preterm baby, her breast milk or pre-term milk is rich in nutrients. Pre-term mother’s milk is rich in proteins and sodium, but has less lactose.
Initially, LBW babies have to stay separate from their mothers for long time, and this can disrupt the breastfeeding routine. However, it is very important to breastfeed a LBW baby during this time.
Expressing milk: Sometimes, a LBW baby cannot suckle well initially. In this scenario the mother can express her milk by hand or by using a breast pump and ensure that the baby gets the breast milk. In case an LBW baby needs extended hospitalisation and mother is discharged earlier, she can express her breast milk so that the hospital staff can feed it to the child.
Storing milk: A mother can express her milk and store in refrigerator for later use in case the baby is separated from the mother for medical reasons.
Lactation consultants can provide guidance on proper breastfeeding positions and tips on breastfeeding LBW babies. Finally, with a little patience and determination, a LBW baby can be successfully breastfed.