Educational Resources 

What tips are there for mothers beginning to breastfeed a premature baby?

The first few breastfeeding times will be learning experiences for both mother and baby. The mother will probably need help to get comfortable and get the baby positioned. She will need to be seated, preferably in a chair with arms and a back that will allow her to lean back comfortably. A supply of pillows to place under her arms or under the baby will make nursing easier. It is usually recommended that baby be held in one of the two following positions.

• In the transitional hold the baby is placed on a pillow on mother’s lap in a semi-upright position. Mother holds baby with her arm opposite the breast on which she is going to feed him, extending the arm the length of baby’s back with her hand holding baby’s head. Her other hand holds the breast in a C-hold – thumb above and other fingers below the nipple and back an inch or so from the areola (the dark area around the nipple). Baby’s body is positioned facing the mother, tummy to tummy, with his mouth at the level of mother’s nipple. A pillow under baby will help raise him to that level. He is then encouraged to open his mouth widely by tickling his lip with the nipple. When his mouth is open, he is pulled in and onto the breast. Gentle pressure is applied to the back of his head for support and to keep him from pulling off the nipple.
• The football or clutch hold also allows mother to apply gentle pressure to baby’s head and it allows her to see baby’s face. Mother uses the arm on the side on which she will nurse baby to hold him. Her hand supports baby’s head and his body is tucked under her arm at her side. Pillows are positioned under the arm that is holding the baby to comfortably bring baby up to the level of her nipple. The breast is held in the C-hold with the opposite hand and baby is put to breast as above.

During the first few attempts at nursing, baby may just lick and nuzzle the nipple. He may be confused at first with this new skill he needs to learn. Expressing a few drops of milk before baby is put to breast may get him more interested. Whether he latches on and nurses or not, the loving contact and cuddling will be beneficial. When the mother can be calm and patient and enjoy the time with baby, rather than just thinking of the results of getting baby to the breast, it gives baby time to adjust and learn.


This educational material is provided courtesy of Ameda Egnell.  Permission to use and/or reproduce this copyrighted material has been granted by the distributor, Hollister Incorporated.