Tips to help your premature baby to gain weightDr Esther Pravin Hirve
Babies tend to gain maximum weight during the third trimester. Thus, if your baby is born prematurely, there’s a high risk that the baby would be underweight. Your baby’s birth weight is determined by how prematurely the baby is born. A premature baby’s weight is also affected by other factors such as expecting twins or triplets, mother’s health, infections or underlying health issues and genetic factors. A prematurely born baby may be small but this does not mean your baby is unhealthy.
All your baby needs is to gain a little weight and grow before you can take him home. Your baby’s weight can double in just 10 weeks! Here are a few tips to help your little one gain weight.
Breastfeed your baby
Breastmilk is the best form of nutrition for a premature baby. This not only provides the perfect blend of essential nutrients but also helps build immunity, helps your baby’s gut mature and boosts strength. Premature babies often need to spend a few days in the NICU before they can come home with you. During this time, if you cannot breastfeed your baby directly, express your breastmilk so that your baby does not have to go without it. Feed your baby on schedule instead of relying only on the hunger expressed by your baby. You may need to feed your baby every 2-3 hours. You may even be needed to wake your baby at night to feed him. If by any chance you are unable to produce sufficient breastmilk, you should consider donor milk over any other top-up feeds.
Skin to skin contact between the baby and you and your partner has many benefits. It builds a closer bond between the child and parents, keeps the baby warm, regulates heartbeats and breathing rate, helps your baby sleep well and makes breastfeeding easier. In many cases, skin to contact between infant and mother makes the baby move towards the
mother’s nipples and latch on effectively for a feed.
Massage your baby
Studies have shown that regular oil massages can help your baby gain weight steadily since they help in lipid absorption through the skin. They also have a positive effect on metabolism, your baby’s behaviour, risk of infection and mental development. Olive oil is ideal for a premature baby. Avoid using synthetic oils. Spread a little oil on your hands and rub them together to warm your hands and the oil before massaging it into your baby’s skin. You can massage your baby for up to 15 minutes at a time.
Pay attention to your own meals
Since breastmilk is the best form of nutrition for your baby, you must ensure that you eat well to produce nutritious breast milk. Eat a good portion of proteins as well as healthy fats. You also need to ensure that you get sufficient calcium and iron.
Some of the foods that can help you boost breastmilk quality and quantity are barley, fennel, fenugreek seeds, whole grains like oats and papaya. Avoid foods that are considered anti- lactogenic such as peppermint, parsley and of course, alcohol.
When looking after a premature baby, you should not miss out on any health visits. Your baby will be weighed at birth and then at every subsequent checkup. Weighing your baby regularly is the best way to track your baby’s weight gain.
If your little one isn’t gaining weight as desired, your doctor may advise supplements and a feeding routine that could help. Keep an eye on your baby’s health and behaviour and if anything seems out of the ordinary, do not hesitate to consult your doctor.
Shower your baby with love
Cuddling your baby and showing him love will boost his physical and emotional health. It calms your baby, keeps him happy and helps him thrive. So, hold your baby close, cuddle him, make his smile and laugh, play with him and shower him with affection.
Every baby grows at a different rate. These tips should help but remember, some babies gain weight rapidly while others put on weight at a slower pace. As long as your baby is happy and healthy, you should have nothing to worry about.