At what gestation are babies able to breastfeed?

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At what gestation are babies able to breastfeed?

Postby jean » Wed Oct 05, 2011 11:56 am

At what gestation are babies able to breastfeed? At 28/29 wks with our first I had to pump b/c he couldn't coordinate sucking/swallowing yet. I was wondering at what gestation they are able to do that..
Our first son was born and passed in Feb of 2010. Born at 29 weeks due to HELLP and passed due to NEC. We miss him every day. :~(

Our second son was born at 39 weeks gestation in Nov of 2011. No HELLP or pre-e! Took LDA starting at week 12 and went off of it at week 38!

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Re: At what gestation are babies able to breastfeed?

Postby aajatwins » Wed Oct 05, 2011 03:00 pm

I have no idea what the technical/medical answer is for this. but my boys did fine at 36 weeks. It may vary from baby to baby, too.
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Re: At what gestation are babies able to breastfeed?

Postby amandaoasis » Wed Oct 05, 2011 03:29 pm

Bennett developed the suck/swallow ability between 33 and 34 weeks. However, breastfeeding at that gestation was quite difficult for us, so I continued to pump. He never got the hang of actually breastfeeding...I pumped for 8 months before giving it up.
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Vivian, born 10/28/10 at 39 weeks 1 day. Induced due to mildly creeping BP's. 7 lbs. 10oz. 20 inches.

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Re: At what gestation are babies able to breastfeed?

Postby tracym » Wed Oct 05, 2011 06:03 pm

I'd say it varies from baby to baby.

My 37 weeker was slow to feed, he could do it but only for a few minutes at a time. We'd have to strip him naked, wake him with wet washcloths (it was summer), tickle his feet..anything we could to keep him awake so he'd get a full feed.

My 33 weeker was first put to the breast at a few days old (the week after delivery is still quite hazy so I'm not exactly sure how many days old) and she took to it like a pro. She was only allowed to feed from the breast once a day to start with as not to expend more calories than she was getting, so she received the rest of her feeds via gavage with fortified breast milk. It took until a week after her due date before she was receiving all of her feeds at the breast, one day she ripped out the NG tube and the nurse wasn't due back until late the day after (I declined to learn how to insert it myself) and she did great at the breast for over a full day and we never looked back.
Tracy

Jack - 37 weeks Feb '01 (mild PE dx 33 weeks)
Kate - 33 weeks Feb '05 (severe PE dx 31 weeks)
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Re: At what gestation are babies able to breastfeed?

Postby alexis » Sat Oct 08, 2011 12:34 am

It's gradual. 36-37 weekers are known as slow feeders. They can breastfeed but they are sleepy and may have a poor latch and suck. They're also more likely to have jaundice, which interferes with good BFing. 37 weekers are well known for being tricky because they look perfect and don't need NICU time, but they often require a little more help. Nothing insurmountable, but useful to know about in advance. LCs will tell you there's a real difference between 37 and 39 weekers. (I remember telling an LC this time that I was looking at a 37 week and a CS to boot--this is when I was admitted at 32 weeks with high BP--and she made a face.)
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Re: At what gestation are babies able to breastfeed?

Postby caryn » Sat Oct 08, 2011 02:53 pm

The suck reflex is developmentally triggered around 34 weeks, IIRC. Oscar was a 34 weeker and a Caesarean and learned to nurse after a week and five days, mostly because by then he was discharged and I could spend literally the entire day either nursing or sleeping. Teaching him to nurse went like this: baby wakes. Husband changes baby while I pee. Work on latching for 15 minutes or so. Pump while hubby bottle-feeds baby what I pumped last time. Go to sleep for an hour and a half. Baby wakes...

After he worked it out, it went: baby wakes. Change baby and pee. Nurse for half an hour. Go to sleep for an hour and a half. Baby wakes...

He gained 12 oz. the first week, so he was getting plenty once he learned what he was doing (and once I learned what I was doing) and after that the biggest issue was that he was still developmentally immature and a horrid sleeper.
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Re: At what gestation are babies able to breastfeed?

Postby jean » Sat Oct 08, 2011 04:37 pm

Wow-(sounds exhausting!) so it really is helpful to have your hubby there in the beginning! I think my hubby was thinking he might take a day or two off when the baby is born, but maybe I should try to encourage him to take a few more days..
Our first son was born and passed in Feb of 2010. Born at 29 weeks due to HELLP and passed due to NEC. We miss him every day. :~(

Our second son was born at 39 weeks gestation in Nov of 2011. No HELLP or pre-e! Took LDA starting at week 12 and went off of it at week 38!

http://findingtherainbowconnection.blogspot.com/
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Re: At what gestation are babies able to breastfeed?

Postby alexis » Sun Oct 09, 2011 10:31 am

It definitely is. What I did, to maximize the amount of help I got because I was having a planned CS, was have my mom there for a week, then DH took a week off work (this way, he got to use his days at home and spend time with the baby, and my mom did childcare for the older one while I was in the hospital). But, tbh, if he'd had the days to take I would have had him at the hospital too. The nurses at my hospital this time were really good, but they aren't my personal slaves. I had to send the baby to the nursery overnight the first night because I wasn't fit to care for him alone. If DH had stayed I could have managed.
Chronic hypertension
Aliza - 01/05/2007 - Severe preeclampsia, emergency CS 37 weeks
Isaac - 09/26/2011 - controlled on 150mg Toprol, NO PE, 39 weeks!
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Re: At what gestation are babies able to breastfeed?

Postby caryn » Sun Oct 09, 2011 10:43 am

It was exhausting, and I'm sure even with a normal pregnancy and a term baby it's exhausting. With a preemie and a critically ill mother it is no fun whatsoever. We need help with our babies. :)
Science! The articles you don't want to miss:
The Preeclampsia Puzzle (New Yorker) and Silent Struggle: A New Theory of Pregnancy (New York Times)
Looking for recent articles and studies? Lectures from researchers?
A chance to participate in research? For us on Facebook or Twitter?

Caryn, @carynjrogers, who is not a doctor and who talks about science stuff *way* too much
DS Oscar born by emergent C-section at 34 weeks for fetal indicators, due to severe PE
DD Bridget born by C-section after water broke at 39 weeks after a healthy pregnancy
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Re: At what gestation are babies able to breastfeed?

Postby heather j » Mon Oct 10, 2011 09:25 pm

I would completely agree with what Caryn has said. Mine were all 36-7 weekers. Oliver was the easiest, but I think having a learning curve helped. He had a great latch and seemed to know just what to do. He didn't have jaundice and was ALWAYS eager to nurse even in his earliest hours of life. He also took forever. ;) That said, he nursed every two hours around the clock for the first week (for example, he'd wake and nurse at 6 am, take an hour to do so at 30 minutes each side, sleep for an hour, and begin again at 8 am). He was easy, and I was SO exhausted. If it is at ALL possible, I would really suggest having someone there to help you the first week. It's helpful to have someone else fetch the baby, help change him, help you with meals, etc. All you'll be wanting to do is getting to know your new baby, care for him, and REST. The good news is that (in comparing the pregnancy when I was critically ill to my best pregnancy/recovery) is that your body will just *know* what it's accomplished and what needs to be done. I've never been able to fall asleep once I'm awake or wake easily for that matter. I had no problems waking around the clock and instantly falling asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow. :)
Heather (PAI-1 4G/4G) mama to:
Nicolas Edison (6/2004) 36 weeks, PE, HELLP, and placental abruption
Ella Amelia (3/2007) 37 weeks, lovenox, PE-free
Oliver Lyon (1/2011) 37 weeks, lovenox, PE-free
Milo Mason (2/2014) 39 weeks PE-free
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