Feeding premature babies

Ensuring your premature baby gets the right nutrition

During the coronavirus outbreak you may be worried about breastfeeding your preterm baby. This is a stressful time and no doubt you want to keep your infant as safe as possible while ensuring they get the nutrition and love they need to thrive. Here are some helpful facts, tips and considerations given by UNICEF to keep your baby safe while feeding.

Note: If you have symptoms of fever, cough or difficulty breathing, you should seek medical advice early and follow instructions from your health care provider.


Benefits of breastfeeding outweigh the risks:

  1. Breastmilk is the golden standard for nourishing your infant and is essential for preterm babies. If you have Coronavirus but are well enough to breastfeed, UNICEF suggests that the benefits outweigh the risks. Preterm babies can be more vulnerable to infection as their immune system is still developing. However, breastmilk can reduce your baby’s risk of developing infectious diseases. The composition helps destroy harmful pathogens while boosting immunity. In addition, it primes the gut of preterm infants, aiding them to develop and mature.
  2. Skin-to-skin contact is important in supporting your preterm baby’s need for emotional connection. It promotes healthy development and contributes to the wellbeing of both mother and child during the postnatal period. UNICEF recognises the profound benefits of this and recommends that mothers and babies stay together as much as possible while taking the necessary precautions.
  3. If you are unable to breastfeed you may want to consider the use of donor milk as a second choice. This is an alternative that can be sourced through your local breast milk bank. For the safety of your baby, you should ask them about their screening and pasteurization process as they should comply with new COVID-19 guidelines.



How to feed your preterm baby safely if you have COVID-19

Currently, there is no evidence to suggest that coronavirus is transmitted through feeding your baby breastmilk. However, just like everyone else, the infection can be spread through contact with respiratory droplets of an infected individual. Here are some tips that can keep your baby safe while feeding.

  1. Wash your hands before touching the baby, breast pump or bottle
  2. Wear a mask if you have symptoms of infection to avoid breathing, coughing or sneezing on the baby
  3. Clean and sterilise all pump and feeding equipment thoroughly in accordance with your local COVID-19 guidelines
  4. Consider asking someone who is well to feed your expressed breast milk to the baby
  5. If needed, transport breastmilk to the NICU in a clean freezer bag and an insulated bag that is thoroughly cleaned in between use.
  6. Restrict exposure to visitors


If you have any further questions, contact your doctor or see the full  UNICEF statement on feeding neonates during COVID-19.


Information on this page is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of a healthcare professional if you have any questions or concerns.

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