Breast feeding special needs baby or a premature baby comes with its hurdles. Whether your baby’s special needs or preterm birth was anticipated or not, bringing a baby with challenges into the world produces conflicting feelings for parents. On one hand you are excited to meet your new baby and at the same time you may be dealing with sadness, anger, disappointment, fear, and perhaps guilt.
Breast milk provides full-term, healthy babies with immense advantages. Breast feeding special needs baby provides even extra protection against some of the problems that premature and special needs babies may develop. A baby born premature or with added obstacles such as heart problems, cystic fibrosis, Autism, Down syndrome, cleft lip, cleft palate, or a neurological impairment has even more to gain from the benefits of breast milk than other babies.
Gaining Strength Through Support and Information
Gaining support and information from other parents of special needs children is something that has helped many families.
Dr. Valerie Richey, mother of 3; including an autistic son and a daughter with PDD defines autism and provides information and support for families living with an autistic child.
Carrie shares her experiences about mothering a baby with Down Syndrome.
Immunizations containing mercury and neurological disorders.
Breast feeding special needs baby provides the ultimate nourishment and immunological advantages that will help your precious little one stay healthier,stronger, and more capable of gaining weight and dealing with treatment or surgeries.
The cuddling and skin-to-skin contact required while breast feeding special needs baby maintains the stimulation needed for fully developing to his potential and a unique closeness that may help make up for being separated from your special needs baby in the early days and weeks after giving birth. Breast feeding hormones also facilitate calmness and contribute to making you feel more in touch with your baby.
Your breast milk offers the best nourishment for your baby. Most mothers of babies born with challenges have times when they feel discouraged and frustrated with the process of breast feeding their special needs baby - especially during long cycles of pumping. Whether you have decided to provide milk for your baby for a short period of time or to breastfeed exclusively for the long run, you are making an investment of time and dedication that will provide valuable rewards for both you and your baby.
Breast milk is easy to digest and healthier for babies with heart or respiratory problems and babies who may have trouble gaining weight. It is less irritating to the nasal passages of a baby with a cleft palate. Breast milk can help to provide protection from the respiratory infections and bowel problems that a special needs baby may be prone to.
Often a challenged baby seems unenthusiastic or unwilling to nurse at first. If you are determined to make it work, discuss your feeding plans and questions with your family and your baby’s health care providers.
If your baby needs to stay in the hospital for an extended period or is unable to breastfeed at the breast, you will need to rent, purchase or borrow the best breast pump for you and your baby's needs.
You may decide to continue pumping and eventually feed at the breast, or you may decide to feed your baby expressed breast milk from a bottle. If you want to give your milk to your baby, try to breastfeed as soon as possible after the birth. Pumping frequently will enable you to increase your milk supply If immediately breast feeding special needs baby is not possible, start pumping as soon as possible after birth. You should pump as often as a baby would breastfeed, every two to three hours. The milk can be given via a feeding-tube or some another feeding method.
It's best to avoid bottles and pacifiers, because your baby has to suck differently on a bottle and nipple confusion may make it more difficult for your baby to latch onto your breast later when he's ready.
The latest research proves that the breast feeding special needs baby is under less stress while breastfeeding than when bottle feeding.
Ask a lactation consultant about getting a Supplemental Feeding System (SNS) which, allows you to feed your baby at your breast via a thin tube taped to your breast or finger. Your finger is more similar to your nipple than an artificial one is. Your doctors and nurses may not be familiar with alternative feeding methods so make sure to inform them and explain why it is important to you and your baby. If possible, keep trying to breastfeed.
Be patient. It may take weeks for your special needs baby to learn the method of latching on and sucking properly. A neurologically impaired baby may need extra support while feeding. If your doctor recommends that you need supplement for a slow-gaining baby, ask if you can express and give your hindmilk, from the end of a feeding, which is higher in calories and fat content.
Even if your special baby does not become a steadfast breast feeder - any amount of your milk, received at your breast, pumped and given by bottle, or given by an alternative feeding technique will greatly benefit your baby's health and development. It's something only you are capable of providing… the very best!
Chart of suggestions for breast feeding special needs baby and premature baby.