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Preemie Feeding Difficulties

Meet Tracy, Preemie Parent Mentor

My preemie(s) was born at: 24 weeks, 3 days
Days spent in the NICU: 100
Current age of preemie(s): 4
Parent of Multiples: No
Our NICU Journey included: HELLP, IUGR, Long term ventilation, Coming home on O2, pumping/breastfeeding support, ROP laser surgery, Sensory Processing Disorder, Oral aversion, developmental delay.

All the NICU nurses warned me that my preemie Chloe might have feeding challenges. But she actually took to the bottle right away, and she was so great at bottle feeding that it wasn’t long before we came home. We weren’t as successful when it came to breastfeeding. I struggled with production when I was pumping, tried everything from malt beverages to hand expression, and was even starting to think Chloe was getting a latch when suddenly a lung issue landed us in the PICU for almost three weeks. After that, we could only get Chloe to eat with “dream feeds” (i.e., feeding her while she was asleep). Even after seeing GI specialists, occupational therapists, feeding therapists, and speech therapists, we have come close to a feeding tube so many times. We’ve endured weekly weigh-ins, two different intensive feeding programs, and while we’ve made some progress, we still work on overcoming feeding challenges every day. That’s why we celebrate and appreciate the little things, especially every lick, bite, and swallow of food!

As a Graham’s Foundation Parent Mentor, I want to be a resource for families facing preemie feeding issues and to help them realize they’re not alone in this. There were very few families in our NICU with babies as small as our preemie but one of them connected me with another micro-preemie mom who could understand what I was going through. I want to be there for new parents like she was there for me.

Feeding Issues in Preemies

Premature infants and children are more likely to encounter difficulties with feeding and growing than those born at term. From a diagnosis of failure to thrive to suck-swallow-breath coordination to coaxing an unwilling toddler to embrace solids, prematurity makes what should be simple-eating-into a challenge. Parents of preemies may have to navigate a confusing world of feeding tubes, specialty equipment, and therapies just to help their children.