A full-term baby has been in utero for at least 36 weeks, if not all 40 weeks or more of a pregnancy. When a little one is born before 36 weeks, babies are known as preterm or preemies.
The World Health Organization (WHO) ranks the United States as one of the 10 countries with the greatest number of preterm births after India, China, Nigeria, Pakistan, and Indonesia.
When a little one is born so early and delicate, growth and development are the top of the list for physicians and families alike.
To give these tiny babies the very best start on the path to a healthy life, nutrition is key.
Premature babies need to receive pure nutrition so they can grow at a rate close to that of babies still inside the womb.
Babies born less than 34 weeks gestational have unique feeding needs than babies considered full term.
When little ones are born so early it is not unusual to see breastfeeding and formula feeding problems. Preemies are yet to be mature enough to coordinate sucking, breathing, and swallowing.
Early term babies can also experience problems with breathing, oxygen levels, circulatory and blood infections. Unfortunately, in the very early days of birth this all may lead to a need to get nutrition and fluids through an IV or feeding tubes.
Less premature babies born closer to 37 weeks can often be fed from the breast or a bottle. Keep in mind that each baby has individual needs nutritionally and otherwise.
For preemies that receive formula it is incredibly important that these tiny little ones get nutrition that is pure and without ingredients that are growth and developmental inhibiting.
With a minimal amount of research, parents are often very surprised to see that there are very basic guidelines set as to what nutrients should or can be included in big brand baby formula.
Even American baby formulas labeled as “organic” are allowed to pick up chemicals or pesticides along the manufacturing process.
There are no hard and fast rules pertaining to which carbohydrates, proteins, or fats that have to be included in American baby formulas and sadly there is only a very short list of what is not allowed.
The lack of regulation leads to the frequent use of inexpensive, processed sweeteners such as corn syrup and glucose syrup and ingredients that have been sourced from farms that use pesticides, hormones, and questionable animal keeping practices.
Formula Feeding Preemies
Toxic ingredients such as heavy metals, synthetics, soy and non lactose sugars that are found in over-the-counter American baby formulas will not only cause digestive issues but will hamper the growth and development cycles and can lead to a lifetime of health concerns.
On the other hand, European baby formulas are governed by the European Commission that has very strict guidelines for both maximum and minimum quantity requirements for carbohydrates, proteins and fats in European baby formulas as well as the inclusion of proper amounts of vitamins and minerals, such as Vitamin B and Calcium.
Unlike the FDA and American baby formulas, the standout difference you will find within the EU is the strict regulation of inclusions, exclusions, formula stages, and certifications, as well as the guidelines for what sources can be used to meet these requirements for European baby formula.
Best Formulas for Preemies
European baby formulas are only sourced from certified farms that take the entire ecosystem of farming into consideration. Soil, seeds, plants, animals, and humans are a priority.
You will never find hidden dangers such as pesticides, chemical fertilizers, or genetic modifications at any part of the process from planting to processing, all of which can be especially detrimental to a premature baby's delicate system.
What you will find is family owned and operated businesses that support and give back to the communities where they live and work, and gentle husbandry practices for animals that are raised on 100% organic grass fields.
All of this is important because the cow’s milk and goat’s milk produced from animals raised in this environment are higher in protein, have fuller organic milk sugars (lactose), and are richer in vitamins and minerals; which means a healthier baby formula for preemies.
Powdered Formula for Preemies
When breastmilk is not available or families choose to use an alternative, European baby formulas are the closest formula to breast milk available.
European baby formula not only contains organic lactose just like breast milk, which is vital for promoting calcium absorption and a healthy digestive system in preemies, but European formula also features the other main components of breast milk.
Organic whey found in European baby formulas help to make the cow’s milk base similar to the protein composition of breast milk and in terms of fats.
European formulas typically contain a combination of organic oils, which mimic the complex blend of fatty acids in breast milk.
Most European baby formulas also contain or have natural properties that act as prebiotics and/or probiotics, which are found in breast milk and contribute to a healthy gut microbiome.
With the recent addition of organic long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids like DHA and ARA to all European baby formulas, the components of European formulas are closer than ever to breastmilk.
Preemie Feeding Chart
In the first months of your preemie's life your doctor may prescribe higher calorie bottles. This often includes a change in the amount of water to formula ratio.
Most pediatricians are happy to help you find the right mixing of European baby formula to water. Before leaving the hospital we suggest setting an appointment with your little one’s pediatrician to talk care, specific needs, and mixing formula.
It is a good idea to print and take the English mixing instructions and calorie count for your chosen European baby formula brand when meeting with the baby's doctor. All of the information will then be used to make a preemie feeding chart and instructions tailored to your infant’s unique needs.