Free express shipping across SA on all orders of R450 or more

Premature Awareness

Premature baby with NUK Premature soother

By Burgie Ireland RN RM SANC

Teeny-tiny premature babies face many challenges, one of which is sucking. These babies have high nutritional needs for their size, and mom’s breast milk is perfect for this purpose. Although babies start swallowing amniotic fluid from about 13 weeks gestation, their sucking reflex only starts to kick in around 32 weeks. Another problem for premature babies is their inability to coordinate sucking, swallowing and breathing, which increases their risk for choking. Preemies need a lot of energy to feed, and this uses up valuable calories that are essential to help them grow.

Babies need to suck for at least the first two years of life. Sucking teaches them to self-soothe, it releases endorphins that send pain-relieving messages from the brain to the body, sucking stimulates growth and development, and fulfils emotional needs – a biggie for preemies in NICU where they are attached to machines and monitors and missing out on mom’s soft, warm touch.   

Initially, premature babies catch-up their nutritional needs with tube-feeding – ideally using mom’s expressed breast milk (EBM), called first milk or colostrum. Once babies are able to swallow, they will be fed using a cup, syringe or teaspoon. While these feeding methods provide essential calories, it’s also important to stimulate the sucking reflex by way of non-nutritive sucking. This can be achieved by using a specially designed micro-prem soother, or, when mom is able to use Kangaroo skin-to-skin care, allowing her baby to suckle at her empty breast.

Nutrition is very important for premature babies. These tots have a lot of catching-up to do, but with patience, help and support from friends and family, and the medical profession, these babies are surviving despite their challenged. With guidance and support, premature babies can learn to suck and breastfeed, making this a special and rewarding time for parents and their babies.

Previous Next