Breastfeeding in preterm infants: growth versus brain power paradox

Severely preterm infants gain weight comparatively slower if breastfed–a worry for any parent. But a recent study in the journal BMJ shows in later years these slow growers have significant neurological improvement over those who did not receive breastmilk after hospital discharge. The researchers call this the “Apparent Breastfeeding Paradox.”

This is additional evidence for mothers (with the strong support of their families and health care providers) to try their best to nurse infants, particularly those often challenging preterm babies.

Bigger isn’t always better

Doctors are often so focused on bigger being better. Poorly researched and widely used growth charts have caused unknown numbers of infants to be supplemented with formula due to the pressure of growing to the chart’s norms. See more here.

In fact, the old outdated growth charts could be responsible for a portion of childhood obesity.

As a mother with a mind-blowing milk supply in later weeks, I was told on day two if my infant didn’t start gaining he would be put on formula. I asked what would happen if I refused and was informed social services may be involved. Ugh. Now there’s a great way to encourage a woman to relax and let her milk come in.

Stunts like this can happen to anyone so know your rights and the right numbers your baby should be measured by when you go into the hospital.

Other ways to make your baby grow

Co-sleeping and baby wearing both keep baby close and keep growth hormones high. It can be difficult to do this with preterm infants in the early days and tough with twins–simply do your best. Even a little is lovely.

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