In the NICU - Feeding
Feeding and growth at home
After your baby is discharged home, it is important to ensure they continue to feed and grow well. Here we discuss feeding your baby at home and what to expect. We highlight the continued value of breastfeeding and the alternatives if you do not breastfeed. We explain how your baby’s feeding and growth will be monitored and what to do if you have a concern. We also discuss weaning.
Feeding your baby at home
- Your baby should be feeding and growing well before going home and we expect this to continue at home.
- Continue to watch your baby’s feeding cues and progress to a more responsive plan as their feeding improves. For further information, refer to Tips to help your baby when oral feeding. If your baby appears hungry and cues to feed more, then it is appropriate to offer more. If your baby does not appear to feed well or if you have any concerns, contact your baby’s PHN or doctor.
- If you are expressing and bottle-feeding, we encourage you to transition to breastfeed and continue to breastfeed for as long as you can. The HSE and the World Health Organisation recommends breastfeeding (in combination with appropriate solid foods from about 6 months) up to 2 years and beyond; but remember, any amount is valuable.
- If your baby bottle feeds, ensure you prepare the bottles correctly. Helpful information is available on https://www2.hse.ie/wellbeing/child-health/bottle-feeding/equipment-for-bottle-feeding.html. You may also like to speak with staff or your baby’s PHN.
- If your baby does not feed breast milk, or if your milk supply is insufficient for all their feeds, infant formula is the only substitute until they are 1 year of age (corrected age). When using formula milk, follow the manufacturer’s preparation instructions. Information about formula milk is available from www.mychild.ie https://www2.hse.ie/wellbeing/child-health/types-of-formula-milk.html. First stage formula milk is the only type of milk that your baby should need, unless advised by your dietitian, PHN or doctor. ‘Hungry baby’ formulas are not advised.
- Your baby may be advised to use a breast milk fortifier or a ‘specialised formula’ at home. Ask staff if this is required and for how long. This generally depends on how your baby feeds and grows.
- Avoid offering other drinks unless your baby appears thirsty rather than hungry, e.g. if it is very warm. Other drinks tend not to provide much nutrition and can reduce your baby’s appetite for milk feeds.
- Your baby may also need to take supplements, for example vitamin and/or iron drops. Staff will tell you if supplements are recommended.
Remember – combination feeding
If you cannot provide milk for all of your baby’s feeds, you can combine breast milk feeding with formula feeding. You can also combine breastfeeding with bottle-feeding. Many babies happily feed a combination of everything – breastfeeding, bottle-feeding, breast milk and formula milk!
Monitoring your baby’s feeding and growth at home
Monitoring involves regular assessment of your baby’s feeding, growth and development, and needs regular checks with their PHN, GP and when they attend at the hospital outpatient clinic.
It is important to make sure that your baby feeds enough. It is reassuring if they are growing well and have lots of very wet nappies – about 6-8 daily or at least one for every feed, and regular soft stools (dirty nappies).
If your baby does not appear to feed or grow well, or if you are concerned, contact their PHN or doctor. Your baby’s doctor may refer them to a dietitian, a lactation/breastfeeding specialist or a speech and language therapist to provide further guidance.
For further information, visit https://www2.hse.ie/wellbeing/child-health/your-childs-growth-weight-and-length/your-childs-weight.html.