Feeding and monitoring your premature baby at home

Continue to check that your baby is feeding well at home.

Babies who are feeding well will usually:

  • wake to feed often
  • have 6 or more wet nappies a day
  • poo regularly
  • gain weight

Babies born prematurely or smaller than expected often appear hungry as they try to catch up in size.

They are hungry because they need extra nutrition to support a faster rate of growth. This can also happen during growth spurts.

Feed your baby according to their appetite and follow feeding recommendations:

Do

  • feed your baby when they show early hunger cues

  • use paced bottle-feeding if they are bottle-fed

  • offer your baby more feeds if they are hungry - you do not need to restrict the amount they have

Don't

  • do not follow a strict schedule of feeds

  • do not force your baby to feed

  • do not use a hungry baby formula - these only make your baby feel full and do not provide extra nutrients

Monitoring your baby’s growth at home

Premature babies must have their weight, length and head circumference checked often. This will be at the hospital, with your public health nurse (PHN) or GP.

The measurements are entered on a growth chart using your baby's corrected age.

Your baby's corrected age is their actual age minus the number of weeks or months they were born early. For example, if your baby is 3 months old and they were born 1 month early, their corrected age is 2 months.

If your baby's doctor or PHN is concerned about your baby’s growth or nutrition, they may recommend a different feeding plan. They may also refer your baby to a dietitian.

If you have any concerns about your baby's growth, contact your PHN or GP.

Slaintecare logo
This project has received funding from the Government of Ireland’s Sláintecare Integration Fund 2019 under Grant Agreement Number 8.

Page last reviewed: 8 November 2021
Next review due: 8 November 2024

Talk to a breastfeeding expert