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How should I feed my preterm baby?

Your near-term baby needs to eat often -- at least eight times every 24 hours. That means every 2½ hours during the day, or every 4 hours at night. A good rule of thumb is that if your baby is awake, he should be eating. But what if your baby doesn’t wake up to eat? Or what if he gets distracted or falls asleep too fast while eating?

Here are some tips to find or create the right moment to feed your baby:

Have your baby sleep in your room with you. This helps you see your baby’s feeding cues more quickly. Each baby is different, but watch for your baby to:
  • bring his hands to his mouth
  • move his mouth and tongue
  • move around quietly
Gently help your baby wake up when it’s time to eat. Here are some tips:
  • Sing to your baby or call his name.
  • Slowly change your baby’s whole body position. Roll him slowly side-to-side on a pillow on your lap. Sit your baby up and down a few times.
  • Change your baby’s diaper, undress him, and put him next to you, near your breast. Have him in the right position as you start feeding so you don’t have to move him around while he’s eating.
  • Try to be patient if your baby is slow to wake up. Wait for your baby to open his mouth at the touch of your breast or the bottle. This is better than pushing or pulling his jaw down. (Some infants do need to have special mouth stimulation. The lactation educators can help you with this.)
Keep things calm and quiet while you feed your baby. You may need to turn off the TV and bright lights. Ask visitors to leave and ask children to sit quietly. You want your baby to be awake but not distracted.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.