RE: Preemie and Difficulty Feeding

Updated on May 04, 2010
K.D. asks from Medford, MA
16 answers

I am a mom of a preemie baby (born at exactly 36 weeks) on 4/20/10/ weight was 6.6... discharge weight was 6.1 and this past thursday weight was 5.14. I am very anxious to say the least about his weight...... He has latching problems and is a "lazy" sucker per a lactation consultant. We started off with s syringe of formula in the hospital.... I rented hosptal grade pump to take home to keep up milk supply...milk has come in and I have been storing... I pump after almost every attempt at feeding..... my son has little interest in feeding.... he was latching to breast some of the time...but I have also been using the shield (which I know people have mixed opinions on). Currently we are trying to use an SNS (supplemental feeeding system). Has anyone had any experience/luck with this? if so, how long did u do it for...and then what???? I am sleep deprived and hormonal.....we even tried a bottle of breast milk last night (1 ounce)... he took the first one well...but the second one he refused.. we tried for over an hour... we then tried the SNS on breast with shield..... he took 1 ounce....barely.. any advice is appreciated...thanks

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answers from Denver on

My son also wouldn't latch (not a preemie). I tried the SNS, but just ended up in tears. More power to you if you can use it successfully. I found I would need to be an octopus to use it correctly. I also tried the shield, with mixed results.

I pumped for several months and bottle fed, while trying to get my son to latch. I ended up on the slippery slope of PPD and it all just eneded up being too much. I finally gave up and used formula. I felt terrible and shed many tears over that decision, but ultimately it proved to be the best decision for both of us. Six months later, I have a very healthy and active little guy.

Many women get their babies to latch after several weeks of trying. Keep at it! Hopefully he'll get the idea soon. But, if not, please don't feel bad about whatever decision you end up making.



answers from Tuscaloosa on

I bought the First Years breastflow bottles (online or and they are fabulous if you want to try to breastfeed and bottlefeed. I think they might help you.

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answers from Sarasota on


I had problems with my first daughter...I was so worried. Here are things I should have done that I hope you do to make things easier (i followed this advice with my second daughter; it it was ALL so much easier, even with the fact she had a cleft palate!):

1. Keep up with appointments with your lactation consultant. They can provide help and support like no one else can!
2. Whatever you do to get your son to eat, it is going to take MANY attempts to get him to get used to it. DO NOT GIVE UP AND CHANGE THINGS ON HIM UNTIL HE HAS TRULY HAD A CHANCE TO TRY IT MANY TIMES! Each time you change things on him, it is that much more difficult for him to figure out what to do.

I met a woman who was having exactly the same problem as you..latching issues, and "lazy sucker". She breast fed and used a bottle (pumping for it). She was exhausted from it all, but after a couple of weeks (YES, WEEKS) her daughter finally got the hang of the bottle and started to gain weight. THEN she started working on getting her daughter to latch better on her breast, which became easier because her daughter was not frantically hungry and she was not so worried about her gaining weight. Eventually (I think it took another month or so) her daughter started exclusively breast feeding. However, since her daughter was already used to the bottle, the woman found she had more latitude to go out on her own when her daughter was older and completely out of the woods.

Also, if ALL else fails, remember, your son's well being is the MOST important. If it all becomes too much trying to keep up your breastmilk due to the lack of sleep and high anxiety of going through all this, do not feel guilty switching to formula. Many children have been raised on formula only and have healthy, happy childhoods AND become well-adjusted, healthy adults (I happen to be one of them!).

Best wishes,


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answers from Stationed Overseas on

I too had a preemie and once I got her home it probably took about 3-4weeks before we had the breastfeeding down pat. I would suggest that you do not try so many different things at once. And also get a good lactation consultant one that you are comfortable with. Consistancy was the key for us and at some times I was feeding her every hour. Remember also that your son is very young and at this age they have a very hard time staying awake long enough to eat a lot. So you might have to feed him very often but as he gets bigger he will be able to stay awake longer for feedings and eat more at one feeding. Yes you are going to be very, very tired but hang in there it will get better. And congrats



answers from Cincinnati on

I hear your anxiety. I sorry it's been so difficult. how long does it take for him to fed? does he fatigue fast with feeding? does his voice ever sound "gurgly/wet" after feeding? How is his breathing when he eats/is done (does it ever sound labored? How is his nutritive suck? (see

Have you tried to support his chin/cheeks during feeding? (maybe difficult when you switch sides b/c you would use your non-dominant hand). Unfortunately when breastfeeding you do not know how much he is actually eating (but using the sns will allow you to know how much he is eating). How often do you see the lactation specialist? You should be very closely monitored – if you feel like the strategies the lactation specialist is giving you aren’t helping I would not hesitate to either find another LS or get an evaluation by a feeding team.

I have handouts with pictures that show how to support chin/cheeks with bottle feeding - i'd be happy to e-mail them to you.

Take care!



answers from Boston on

hi I highly recomend you join It is a great resource for preemie moms. My son now 10 was a 26 weeker. Second the haberman (sp) bottle is great for preemies. L.



answers from Boston on

I didn't have a preemie so I cannot offer support there...
but please find yourself a good lactation consultant ASAP!!! Call your local LaLeche League if you need some leads...if you are too tired, ask one of your good friends to help you out by finding you this person.

a good lacation specialist can make all the difference, and you will need lots of help and support through this difficult time.

It is always so hard at the beginning, even without the added stress of a preemie baby. Do keep in mind that once you can get things on an even keel, breastfeeding can be so easy! (but this takes a while, even with a non-preemie baby).

Get help and support to help you help your precious new son!
congrats, and good luck!



answers from Hartford on

hi K.,
congratulations on your new baby and God Bless you both. My best suggestion will be to ask your pediatrician to recomend a lactation consultant that would come to your house (you'll probably have to pay for this but most insurances will reimburse you) she'll be able to see what's going on with the baby & help you both to promote latching & nursing success! Good luck, DONT be discouraged. I had my struggles when my son was born too & did this too & was able to nurse him till 3.5years (till he weaned himself off)



answers from Boston on

K., I can completely understand your frustration!! I had a 32 weeker who couldn't nurse for the first few weeks of her life. I had to pump and she was fed through an NG tube. She did take to nursing when she was allowed to, but she would fall asleep every time she nursed and choke, therefore de-sating and prolonging her hospital stay!! UGH! Is your doctor familiar with preemies? Is s/he concerned? If they are not concerned yet, give him some more time. They have tiny little bellies, so he may not need much yet. My guess is he's doing a lot of sleeping!! That said, if it comes down to and you have to give him a bottle, don't worry about it!! Our little guys need it to come a little easy for them. They've had a hard start. I pumped so much she had breast milk til she was 8 mo old, even though I stopped nursing at 12 weeks due to my own health. I know you want what is best for him and sometimes that's not the same as what's best for a full term baby. Don't let anyone, including your self, tell you you're not doing the right thing if your giving him what he needs!!! If people haven't had a preemie, they just don't understand!!



answers from Boston on

Hi K.!
I hope this finds you well.

I completely understand what you are going through. Don't give up. I know it is hard, but as you can see there are many of us who have gone through what you are going through and there is a light at the end of the tunnel (although I know it can be hard to see sometimes!).

My daughter was also born at 36 weeks and was 5lbs. 7oz. She had trouble latching as well, so I used the shield. At first she was doing well, but once we got home, she got severely jaundiced and ended up in the NICU for almost a week b/c she was just not getting enough fluids into her.

I started pumping and feeding her an ounce or so of breast milk at a time, but also started supplementing her with formula. We gave her what she would take. For the first few weeks, this is what we did, but then I was eventually able to wean her from the formula and give her pumped milk and whatever she got from nursing (with the shield). I pumped after each feeding (she nursed on one breast and I would pump the other).

I had a wonderful lactation consultant who helped me as well as the nurses who would come by from the hospital due to her stay in the NICU. They were very supportive, which helped a lot. I kept using the shield for a while and then after 3-4 weeks or so, she was able to latch by herself!
In the end, it turned out that she nursed better with the shield, so I used that til she weaned herself at one year. I also started supplementing her with formula around 5-6 months as well to ensure that she was getting enough as my supply was low.

It wasn't easy and there were many days when I did not think that I could do it, but you'll be amazed at what you can stick with and how fast time goes, too. It sounds like you are trying everything that you can. Do what you can and please don't beat yourself up if you find nursing hard. It is hard in this kind of situation especially and in the end, your son will be fine no matter how he gets his nourishment.

Good luck and hang in there.



answers from Dallas on

I too had a son who was born 5 weeks early. He was our third and could never get him to latch on the way the other 2 did, especially the second one. The other 2 I nursed and pumped for over 6 months. Our youngest never did get the hang of it and I started to loose my supply. I found out later down the road that one of the issues many preemies have is the latching as their sucking is not very strong. Congrats on your new baby.



answers from Boston on

Hi K.,

My daughter was born at 37 weeks and she also had difficulty latching on. The lactation consultant we had gave us a great tip. She had us use a syringe filled with breast milk, and attached to the syringe was a small tube, then I taped the tube to my pinkie finger (tape well away from the fingertip) and would have my daughter suck on the tipe of my pinkie finger (make sure your finger nail is cut very short!). We did this for about 2-3 weeks, while always trying the breast first. Eventually she got the hang of it and was a champ at breast feeding. The nice thing about this is your hubby can help out when you are completely exhausted, as long as his fingers aren't huge! If you want more details or info about it please feel free to email me.


answers from Boston on

My son was 5 1/2 weeks early and we had many of the same issues you are having. We topped of each feeding (he was on the dot every 3 hours) so we would give him pumped milk after he had BF. This really worked for us and when we got that 1st double chin in it was very exciting! We used the shield also and he will learn to latch soon enough. I got to see our NICU nurse and the lactation consultant fight over the use of the shield too.

Good Luck, he will be a big boy (for a preemie) soon enough



answers from Boston on

My daughter was born at 37 weeks and also had trouble nursing. We tried supplemental nursing, finger feeding and breast shields. Then we went to the bottle of expressed breast milk. Each session would begin with an attempt at nursing, but would end with a bottle. At 8 weeks I was just about to give up...and then she got it. What got me through was twice a week appointments with a wonderful lactation consultant. If breast feeding is important to you, get support and stick with it. And if it doesn't work, it's perfectly OK to pump or go with formula.
Good luck,



answers from Boston on

I would take put all interruptions that inhibit solely focusing on breastfeefing, like the pump and breast shield. Unless you need bottled milk right away, there is no need to use a beast pump, and it can actually interfere with establishing milk supply and nursing. And you definitely do not need the formula! Have you contacted Le Leche Leauge? There are some amazing, knowledgable leaders in the area who can help you. I come from a long line of breastfeefing moms, and my mother was a le leche leauge leader and lactation consultant. You want to have baby skin to skin, at the breast all the time and no interferences(especially the formula, he will not starve) with establishing a good latch on. Just because he is a "lazy sucker" does not mean that he will not learn with patience and practice.



answers from Bangor on

My daughter was the same size at birth as your son and she wouldn't latch for the first three weeks! She was our first born and I felt like a failure as a Mommy. But I pumped and bottle fed her every single feeding, still trying to get her on the breast, and at three weeks - like magic - she started to latch and breast feed! Looking back, I wonder if her little mouth just couldn't fit on my newly enormous breast? So, my advise is don't give up! We never had any problems after that , in fact she nursed until she was two! Good luck Mama!

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