Cue Based Feeding Program for Preemies

Lynsey Keep, RN
screaming infant

Deciding on an infant feeding pattern is for any parent a difficult challenge, and when trying to establish a cue based feeding program for preemies for example, parents sometimes find they have taken on an even more difficult task.

Access to Choices

Unlike parents who welcome their newborn into the world on or near the expected date of delivery, parents who have preemie babies often have to start their lives as parents with less preparation than others. Sometimes, incorporating ideas such as a cue based feeding program for preemies can be something which may poses a challenge.

Parents have access to a great deal of choice when it comes to the major elements of being parents. With excellent books, magazines, websites and support groups, there are ideas, opinions and advice on just about every aspect of parenting. It could however be said that when advice on feeding for example is offered, this advice tends to be geared toward infants that are 'term babies' and are born with few or no problems.

Cue Based Feeding Program for Preemies: It May Take a While

Cue based feeding is simply a plan which some parents decide suits them. Like many things there is no right or wrong way. It is simply a matter of taste and what fits in best with the daily routine. When infants are born prematurely, particularly those that are born very early, paying close attention to feeding and nutrition is required. As weaker beings, preemies need all the energy and support they can access, with breathing and feeding needs being at the top of the list.

When a preemie infant is cared for in a neonatal unit, care is often delivered under strict protocol which is often researched based. Although formula and breastfeeding are equally welcomed, there is nearly always a stipulation to feed the infant at times that are planned, due to the fact that food intake is then measurable and offers the infant a certain allowance of nutrition over a 24 hour period. Obviously parents have a right to exercise their chosen parenting methods; however, it is essential to realize that the nutritional needs of the newborn must come first.

The first week of care in a neonatal unit is usually regimented and also extends to bathing and diaper changing too. Whether it be every two hours or four hours, parents will be expected to change, cleanse and feed their infants exactly as they would do in their own home. The only difference being that expert help is at hand. Once the infant has been stabilized and is showing clear signs of weight gain and dependence in relation to breathing, then parents are often able to take over the reigns and begin to implement their feeding regimes.

So What Happens With Cue Based Feeding?

The first thing to become familiar with when embarking on a cue-based feeding plan is the signs that the infant is hungry, things to look out for are:

  • Gentle eye movements even when closed
  • Increased alertness
  • General movement of arms and legs
  • Rooting
  • Changes in facial expression
  • Squeeks and burbles

The one stage that should be avoided is when the infant actually becomes so hungry that he or she cries. This is deemed as a late stage of infant hunger.

Swaddling an infant can mean that some visual cues go unnoticed, so this may not be a good idea if planning to follow suggestions such as those mentioned above. For a breastfed infant, cue always seem more obvious, with 'nuzzling' likely to occur when the infant is near to the mother's breast. This is a sure sign that hunger is on the increase and that a feed is required. The downside of this is that breastfed infants tend to want to be fed far more often as the scent of the mother's breast milk is a real generator of hunger.

When planning a cue based feeding with formula organization and pre-planning is the key to success. Either first thing in the morning or last thing at night, prepare enough bottles to see you through the next twenty-four hours. That way the cue can be answered immediately, and the efforts are more likely to pay off and determine a true cue-based pattern.

If Things Don't Go to Plan

Cue based feeding program for preemies and even term babies is a tough challenge and can be extremely frustrating. There has to be a great deal of discipline and determination, and most of all parents need to be fully in tune with the needs of their newborn.

If things don't go to plan, try not to be despondent. As with all things connected to having a newborn, there is an element of trial and error, and frustration can play a major part in the first few days and weeks. For preemies who have spent the first few days or weeks under a neonatal routine, breaking certain patterns can be hard, and this makes attempts at cue based feeding more difficult. The important thing to remember, however, is that anything is possible. It simply takes perseverance. A newborn is like a piece of clay waiting to be moulded. There may be some resistance at first, but once shes realizes that this is how it's going to be, she will soon get used to the idea.

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Cue Based Feeding Program for Preemies