November is Prematurity Awareness Month. According to the March of Dimes, premature birth is the #1 cause of death during the first month of life. Even babies born just a few weeks too soon can face serious health challenges and are at risk for lifelong disabilities, such as cerebral palsy, lung problems, and vision and hearing loss. We asked Robin Elise Weiss, CLC, LCCE and pregnancy, childbirth and breastfeeding expert at About.com, to weigh in on Prematurity Awareness Month. Robin is a proud mother of eight (!) and author of many books and articles on pregnancy, childbirth, and childcare, including The Better Way to Breastfeed.
Four Ways to Avoid the Booby Trap of Late Term Prematurity
Here’s a booby trap you can do something about . . . Late term prematurity.
Specifically speaking late term prematurity caused from elective births prior to 39 weeks gestation. Did you know that those last few weeks of pregnancy are really important to your baby? Not only is your baby’s brain rapidly growing in size, but your baby is also working hard on honing breastfeeding skills, like the ability to suck and breathe at the same time. Something as simple as being born even a few days early can be a huge barrier to a successful nursing start.
Here are four ways to avoid this booby trap:
1) Find a doctor or midwife who won’t induce your labor without a medical reason.
2) Remember that you have the right and responsibility to ask questions if induction is discussed prior to your due date.
3) Give birth in a place that has a strict policy against induction before 39 weeks or give birth at home.
4) If you need to be induced for medical reasons, insist that your baby come straight to your breast, skin to skin, just after birth.
Removing this challenge can prevent a lot of stress for babes and babies, causing a decline in the other bumps, barriers and booby traps. You and your baby deserve a healthy start!
*Update: Late term prematurity is defined as 34-36 weeks gestation. Due dates can be based on a number of factors, and babies that were estimated to be 37, 38 or 39 weeks gestation and induced can turn out to be actually 34-36 weeks gestation, putting them in the late preterm category.
Best for Babes Resources for Breastfeeding Premature Babies
Kellymom.com– Breastfeeding Your Premature Infant: Resources
La Leche League — Articles on breastfeeding premature infants and FAQs
The Rush Mother’s Milk Club — All about one of the best NICU lactation programs for premature infants directed by Paula Meier. Share this story with your NICU and fight for better breastfeeding programs for the babies who need it most!
My Whole Heart is In that Incubator — From the Motherwear Blog, a wonderful story of thriving and surviving on breastmilk.