Premature Baby: Choosing The Right Infant Formula

A premature baby is also referred to as a preemie or a preterm baby.

Parents of newborns can decide to either breastfeed their babies or bottle-feed them. However, if you have a premature baby, you may sometimes not have this choice because your baby may be too small to be able to latch on and feed from the breast. In situations like these, you may decide to:

  • express milk through a breast pump and feed your premature infant through a baby bottle; or
  • feed your baby by using baby formulas. You will then need to choose the right kind of infant formulas.

Note: We still recommend that you keep on trying to breastfeed your premature baby. For all the help you need, refer to our article: How to Breastfeed a Premature Baby.

Worried about how to feed your premature baby?

As parent of a preterm baby, there must be many questions you would anxiously want to find answers about. For instance:

  • Are all baby formulas the same? If not, which is the best infant formula?
  • Can you give any normal baby formula to your premature baby?
  • What are the impacts, if any, of giving normal infant formulas to premature babies?
  • What are the bottle accessories that I need?

It is quite normal for you to be concerned about the best formula milk for your preemie. There is baby formula for preemies that has been specifically designed. You could discuss your concerns with your doctor and some suggestions may be presented.

However, your premature newborn may react differently to different kinds of infant formulas and it may not be possible to tell which one would be best for your newborn until you try some. Today, baby formula is available that can address different aspects of your preemies development including providing essential nutrients and contributing to brain development.

Preemie development needs extra nutrition to bridge the full-term gap...

Your doctor will also probably discuss issues that are specific to preemies and what you should strive for as you choose your baby’s formula. You will notice as your baby is born that his or her weight is extremely small especially when compared to babies who reached their full birth weights. Hence, you will need to help your baby catch up and develop properly with the appropriate baby formula. The right baby formula for preemies may include a mixture that is specially formulated to address this gap in growth. Hence, a baby formula that is high in calories may be necessary for your baby during his or her first weeks of life.

Read all about preemie development here.

Breast milk is the natural food that babies take and you can also seek a formula that will bring you as close as possible to breast milk. Some baby formulas for preemies may contain a higher protein ratio than other baby formulas. The extra protein can help to develop other parts of your preemie that did not get the chance to fully develop on their own.

In some cases, your doctor may prescribe a customized mixture of formulas which combine different properties and advantages that these formulas and other components present. These directions can also apply for breastfed premature babies because the same goal of increasing their weight needs to be achieved.

Hypoallergenic and Lactose-free baby formula:

If you are concerned about certain dietary restrictions such as lactose intolerance due to family histories or preference, you can also buy baby formulas that are specifically lactose-free. If your baby is unable to adequately digest other types of formulas, you should consider giving such specialized formula a try.

There are many preemie formulas available in this category and it is usually possible to find a baby formula that matches your needs. There are also hypoallergenic formulas such as Similac Alimentum.

Examples of lactose-free formulas include Enfamil LactoFree and Similar Sensitive.  These baby formulas help your baby get the required nutrients. Other examples of baby formula for preemies include Enfamil Enfacare, Enfamil Premature LIPIL, Similac Special Care and Similac Neosure, etc.

Whichever premature baby formula your doctor refers, make sure you properly sterilize the bottle and its accessories and properly know the do's and don'ts of bottle feeding before opting for it.

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