Special Care Babies

Breastfeeding your sick or premature baby

Breastmilk and breastfeeding are particularly important for babies needing special care.

As well as having many benefits for your baby and for you, breastfeeding also helps build the the bond between you both.


The body manufactures special proteins, called antibodies, to fight off infections. Mums transfer these protective antibodies to their babies through the placenta during the last three months of pregnancy. This process is interrupted when a baby is born prematurely.

For this reason, premature babies are especially vulnerable to infection. The good news is that mums also give their babies antibodies in breast milk. Breastfeeding your baby provides an extra line of defence. Premature breast milk is extra rich in antibodies and growth factors.

Helps your baby grow

Mum's milk also provides nutrients, growth factors, special fats and hormones that are important for growth and development during the crucial early months after birth.

Easy to digest

Breast milk is very easy to digest and is absorbed more easily than formula milk.

Skin contact

Babies spend less time crying and more time in deep sleep as a result of skin-to-skin contact with their parents. It will take time to establish breastfeeding, but once you have achieved this, your baby will benefit from the extra cuddles at feeding time.

Further Reading & Watching

Video - Breastfeeding a Preterm Baby

In their first few weeks, pre-term babies may be fed using a nasogastric tube. But as they progress they will begin to take milk feeds, usually through a tube into the baby's mouth or nose.

Watch >

Bliss Website

Visit the Bliss website to find more information on caring for premature babies.

Visit >

Expressing & Breastfeeding

Read the Bliss guide to expressing and breastfeeding your premature baby.

Download >