Our sponsor for the month is Ameda…
Every year, 1 in 10 babies are born prematurely. November marks Prematurity Awareness Month®, shining a bright light on babies born before 37 weeks and the special challenges they face. For over 75 years, Ameda has been dedicated to helping moms express their milk. Never has this been more important than when supporting the mothers of premature babies, where breast milk acts not just as nutrition but also as potentially life-saving medicine.
A mother’s milk is the best choice for her baby. For NICU babies, breast milk is dose-dependent; the more they get, the better off they are. Pre-term milk has a different make-up than full-term milk—there are several differences in enzymes and protein levels when the two are compared—and offers a number of benefits to a premature baby. It helps to minimize infections, lower the rate of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), and improve vision (among other benefits). It also significantly lowers the risk of more serious infections such as Necrotizing Enterocolotis (NEC), an intestinal disease that affects mostly premature formula-fed infants.
A mother also benefits from providing her pre-term baby with breast milk. Emotionally, she may be stressed by a potentially unexpected early birth and possibly traumatic birth experience. Amongst the chaos, she may feel helpless watching her baby lay in the NICU, especially if she’s not allowed to hold her child very often or at all. Expressing the milk that will be fed to her baby gives her the opportunity to provide one of the most important things her child needs in these early critical days.
While a mother’s milk is the preferred food for her baby, she will need to transfer the milk from her body to the infant. Biologically, her body starts to make milk immediately following birth but needs stimulation to continue and establish her milk supply. Additionally, many preterm infants are unable to suck and latch. Because there is a two-week window for a mother’s body to establish her supply, it’s important to find a way to stimulate the mother, the earlier the better, with either a baby or a breast pump.
A pump like the Ameda Platinum Breast Pump mimics a nursing baby’s suck in order to stimulate a mother’s body to establish and maintain a milk supply. Babies change sucking speed an average of four times per feeding to achieve multiple milk ejections during a breastfeeding session. The Ameda Platinum pump has control over how fast the pump is sucking and, simulating the speed changes of a baby, empowers her to follow her flow.
A mother’s comfort while pumping is very important as it will help her drain her breasts more effectively. The Platinum allows the mom to incrementally adjust the pump’s suction to her highest comfortable setting, which is also where she will realize the highest milk production. These individual speed and suction controls create a personalized experience unique to each mother. The internal rotating piston on the Ameda Platinum also ensures a very smooth waveform for suction, building and releasing pressure smoothly and evenly.
A serious threat to NICU babies comes in the form of bacteria and infection. All Ameda breast pumps use the HygieniKit® Milk Collection System, a closed, FDA-approved barrier system that prevents milk or moisture from entering the tubing. For nursing and pumping mothers, we have eliminated the possibility of contamination from or into the tubing, which not only protects the baby but also eliminates the need to inspect and clean it.
Expressing a mother’s milk is only half the process. The other half is getting the milk into the baby, especially since some NICU babies may not eat by mouth but be fed by a tube directly into their stomach. It’s standard for NICU moms to pump milk and then either refrigerate it for a few days or freeze it. But a premature baby’s digestive tract is sensitive to temperature, so it’s important to ensure that their feedings are warmed to the proper body temperature. Over-warming the milk can damage its nutrients; under-warming it makes it more difficult for a baby to digest and forces them to use precious extra calories to process it. Exercise care when warming the milk—using a microwave is not recommended and, since it’s difficult to know the temperature to which the milk is heated, using a cup of hot water should be avoided as it increases the risk of overheating and damaging nutrients. A warmer like Ameda’s Penguin Nutritional Warmer is a system that heats feedings. The Penguin utilizes a thermal liner that circles the bottle or feeding vessel, to bring the feeding to body temperature in a consistent and trusted way. For a NICU mom, the peace of mind a warming system offers is invaluable.
Regardless of how a NICU baby is fed, they and their mothers need unwavering support and understanding in order to be successful. Ameda is proud to continue our tradition of putting mothers and babies first by offering breastfeeding education and products that contribute to the care of our most fragile babies.
Ameda’s website offers helpful videos and educational information for both the mother and the staff who care for her and her baby.