This is a continuation of my three part series: How I Fattened Up My Premature Baby, part I can be read here.
Part II- The value of breast milk, choosing the right bottle, and bottle “doping”
Breast milk is critically important for a preemie. This is a fact backed up by a lot of medical literature; the short version is: it’s so important milk banks are springing up to fill this vital need- to ensure that preemies get breast milk, even if their own mother’s can’t provide it for them.
This is likely the most important thing I did for o, I committed to pump for her when she was unable to nurse. I didn’t initially realize it would be the long term commitment it morphed into, but with all the other feeding issues we were battling, the highly digestible nature of breast milk was of utmost importance. Weeks turned into months but it was worth it. I have finally weened off the pump and am relying on the freezer full of milk I stashed away to use “someday.” Someday became now, because the frozen milk was aging, my supply was diminishing, and my tolerance for the pump waning.
If you are in the early stages of nursing/ pumping I cannot tell you emphatically enough to freeze as much away as you can *now*. The early days set the bar for your supply later on, and babies drink more and more as they grow. You can always use stored milk later, but you can’t make it appear out of thin air. To this end, we even bought a designated ‘milk freezer” when my freezer stash exceeded what would fit in our other freezer. The milk freezer, packed with dry ice made the trip from Iowa-Florida in the back of a U-HAUL. It was the most precious cargo in the trailer, and I was relieved to hear it made it to it’s destination safely.
Choosing the right bottle seems simple, until you have a baby, then you are inundated with recommendations and advertisements for every bottle made. If you’re lucky, your baby isn’t picky. If you have a preemie and/or a baby with special feeding needs it can be challenging. We’ve tried a variety, what worked for us and my theories behind:
Gerber classic bottles with “newborn” nipple. I’ve only ever seen these sold at Walmart, they come in a 3 pk. for roughly $4. Clear 5 oz. bottles and you can tell they are the “newborn” ones because the nipples don’t touch the top of the cover, like most of them do. The nipples are latex and *tiny* These were the only bottle o did ok with when she was little, her mouth was so tiny it was hard to get a latch on anything else and the nipple is short enough it didn’t gag her. The flow rate is about equivalent to a standard size slow flow nipple. When the nipples started deteriorating and I realized you can’t replace just the nipples I started searching for a bottle I felt more appropriate for what was then a roughly 6 month old baby. The next bottle that was a big hit was:
NUK, we started with the 5 oz. bottles and have since graduated to the 9 oz. ones. All with the slow flow nipples. The great thing about NUK is the nipple aims milk toward the roof of the mouth rather than straight back, leading to less gagging. The silicone nipples are also less affected by the additives in the milk and clean more easily than latex.
Something typical with preemies in the NICU is the fortification of Breast milk with fortifier, formula, ect. for additional calories. We were discharged home without instruction to do this. We were then instructed by GI to thicken her milk (with a product Thick-it) this adds calories and makes the milk thicker to prevent gagging. Later, when o was still gaining slowly and not really “into” solid foods yet I started adding formula to her breast milk bottles to increase the calories. It has made a difference and she is nearing a place on the growth chart! It took me awhile to get past my belief that breast milk is nature’s perfect food, it has been for O, but in o’s situation fortification has been helpful.
A current bottle for her is composed as follows:
6 0z. Breast milk- approx. 120 calories
I TBSP Thick it- 15 calories
I scoop powdered formula- 40 calories
=175 calories vs. 120 calories in a similarly sized bottle without fortification.
Part III: Baby Led Solids, the Why and How.