Which Formula Is Best for Premature Babies?
Having a premature baby is tough. It can feel like you’re having an entirely different experience of parenthood to friends with full-term babies, even once your baby is safely home with you.
For preemies, breast milk is important to help protect them from infections, develop a healthy gut and meet their milestones. But most babies don’t develop the ability to suckle before around 34 weeks, so they might need to be tube fed at first, usually either with expressed milk or donor milk.
Once they’re able to feed, you might be able to breastfeed them full-time, or you might find that you need to top up or switch to formula. Your doctor will be able to talk you through your options.
If your premature baby does need formula, your pediatrician might recommend a specialist preemie formula. These have more calories than other formulas to help your baby put on weight faster, and are often available in hospital neonatal units.
What happens once they leave the hospital?
Feeding a premature baby at home
When you bring your preemie home, you’ll no doubt be armed with plenty of advice from your hospital on feeding. If your doctor has recommended you use a particular formula, stick with that unless you’re advised you can change.
If you’re choosing formula for your preemie, bear in mind that their little tummy is likely to be more sensitive than most full-term babies’, and so they may find some formulas hard to digest. They may be prone to issues like reflux, and more likely to develop allergies.
Look for a natural, easy-to-digest formula designed for the tiniest babies. Holle Pre and Hipp Pre are gentle, starch-free alternatives to stage 1 formulas. Starch can be great at providing energy, but preemies often find it’s just too hard to break down.Many regular formulas also contain ingredients like corn syrup, which again, are often particularly hard for preemies to digest. They might also be made using hormones or pesticides, which could be harmful for a delicate preemie tummy. European organic formulas are made using only traditional, non-chemical farming methods.