Exclusive Human Milk for your Baby
An exclusive human milk diet is vital for your baby’s health, most especially if your baby was born premature at 1,250 grams (roughly 2.7 pounds) or less. But why, exactly, is this the case? What does a 100% human milk diet consist of? How can parents ensure their baby is getting optimal nutrition from the moment they are born? Where can parents turn to if they aren’t sure how to help their child thrive? What types of questions should parents be asking the healthcare team taking care of their baby?
PreemieWorld has put together a variety of tools and resources to help answer your questions and support your preemie’s growth and survival.
Why is an Exclusive Human Milk Diet so Important?
Every year, about 15 million preemies are born around the world. Unfortunately, many still don’t survive their ordeal. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), “in low-income settings, half of the babies born at or below 32 weeks (2 months early) die due to a lack of feasible, cost-effective care, such as warmth, breastfeeding support, and basic care for infections and breathing difficulties. In high-income countries, almost all of these babies survive.”
While we can’t yet prevent preterm birth, there are many proven strategies for helping preemies avoid complications from their early birth. In fact, WHO states that “Exclusive breastfeeding for 6 months has many benefits for the infant and mother. Chief among these is protection against gastrointestinal infections which is observed not only in developing but also industrialized countries.”
Further, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends only human milk for premature infants up to at least six months.
- Peekaboo ICU Preemie is a free app that allows parents to track their preemie’s individual growth and development in the NICU. Download it at the Google Play store or on the iTunes App store.
- Download a sample Letter of Medical Necessity.
- Download Hand to Hold’s resource to help you learn about nutrition choices, NICU Nurturing and Nutrition. Hand to Hold is a national nonprofit that matches new preemie parents with moms and dads who are familiar with the NICU. Check out their “NICU Now” Podcast series for on-the-go advice.
- The National Coalition for Infant Health (NCfIH) advocates for access to human milk and human milk-based fortifiers to improve the vital nutritional health of preemies. They recently published an infographic on the benefits of an exclusive human milk diet. You can download this infographic in English or Spanish or check out their whiteboard video.
- Download our collection of clinical data behind the benefits of an exclusive human milk diet.
- The Morgan Leary Vaughan Fund addresses issues related to NEC and helps inform on policy. Check out their “Speaking of Necrotising Enterocolitis (NEC)” Podcast series. Morgan’s Fund is an all-volunteer, public charity that promotes public awareness about NEC and the potentially devastating effects it can have on preemies and their families.
- Preemie Parent Alliance (PPA) is a parent-led organization to help guide and comfort parents throughout the NICU. PPA encourages parents to reach out for help and access to services. Find a support group in your area or download the Preemie Parent Alliance Bill of Rights
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