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What is a “Late Preterm” Baby?

Updated: Feb 20, 2022

Ah, the #latepreterm babe. This is the term used for all babies born between 34+0 and 36+6 weeks. They can have several challenges and almost all will require a lot of feeding assistance for the first few weeks of life. Many times these babes are discharged home with the mother, but it’s also common for them to require time in the #NICU.


Unfortunately, most parents I work with haven’t received proper #education regarding just how different this gestational age makes their baby.

It’s not just that they are “little”.

‼️Every body system & organ is several weeks #premature, and thus, much more prone to complications.

‼️These babes have a much higher rate of readmission to the hospital (compared to full term newborns).

‼️Premature liver - higher risk of #jaundice

‼️Premature lungs - higher risk of breathing difficulties, including potential dysfunction of suck-swallow-breathe coordination during feeds

‼️Premature body fat - lacking “brown fat” stores that full term babies have at birth. This means they do not have any “reserves” to begin to turn into energy when needed = increased risk of cold stress, #hypoglycemia, sleeping through feedings, and excessive #weightloss.

‼️Premature brain - sensory input can be overwhelming and exhausting

‼️Premature oral structures - weak jaw muscles and lack of adequate fat pads in the cheeks = usually poor breastfeeder in the beginning (also sometimes referred to as “great pretenders” because they may look like they are breastfeeding well but most likely lack the strength and stamina to adequately drain the breast). Your IBCLC may also recommend the use of a #nippleshield. The reasoning behind using this for a late preterm babe is very different than the reasons most people are familiar with; ONLY USE UNDER IBCLC SUPERVISION (otherwise it might not solve anything and could actually hurt your breastfeeding journey). There are many different brands and sizes on the market and an IBCLC needs to help you choose the correct one.

‼️Have a higher daily caloric need than a full term baby; not only do they need their daily requirements met, but they also need extra calories to help all the premature organs catch up in growth = very high likelihood they will require #supplementation in the beginning and mom will have to do some #pumping.

These babes may be able to #supplement at the breast via a #SNS (supplemental nursing system).

However, it is very common for the late preterm babe to need to do a lot of #bottlefeeding in the beginning until they gain strength and stamina.

While baby is supplementing, mom will also need to pump to increase or maintain her milk supply. The vast majority of health insurance plans have to cover a double electric breast pump under federal law. If your baby is hospitalized, your plan may also cover the rental of double electric HOSPITAL GRADE breast pump. Please, always check what your plan covers!

A great resource for breastfeeding the late preterm infant is this book: However, this #book is written for nurses and lactation consultants. The author is actually a former supervisor, who I learned A LOT from. :) She's currently working on book about late preterm infants for parents. Hopefully, it will available soon.

These little babes needs lots of TLC and professional help to get breastfeeding off to a good start. And remember: MOST BREASTFEEDING INFO IN BOOKS OR CLASSES IS GEARED TOWARDS FULL TERM (38+ WEEKS) BABES. THE RULE BOOK FOR LATE PRETERM BABES IS COMPLETELY DIFFERENT.

If you have a preterm baby or have any other lactation concerns, I would be so happy to help you on your breastfeeding/pumping journey! More info on my Virtual or In-Home consultations can be found here:

*Post contains affiliate links.

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