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Certain nutrients occur at the same levels in premature milk as in term milk. Also, the overall calorie count is the same for both. Human milk contains lower levels of some nutrients than artificial formulas. Sometimes, lower nutrient levels are beneficial for premature babies. For instance, protein and sodium are at higher levels in premature milk than in mature milk, yet they still are low when compared to the amount in most artificial formulas. Because of the lower levels of these nutrients, the premature baby loses less water. Less water loss helps the premature baby maintain a stable body temperature.
The nutrient levels and the available calories are often adequate for "older" or "bigger" premature babies, and for many other high-risk babies. However, lower nutrient levels and the "full-term" calorie count in human milk may create problems for the low birthweight baby who weighed 3 pounds, 5 ounces (1,500 grams) or less at birth, or for babies with certain health conditions affecting digestion or the use of nutrients. These babies may not get enough of the minerals, such as calcium, phosphorous, and iron from their mothers' milk alone. They also may need additional calories.
Although your milk is best, it is not always complete with the nutritional needs of very small premature babies or some very sick newborns. Fortunately, adding to, or "fortifying," a mother's milk does not appear to diminish the nutritional and anti-infective benefits your baby will gain from receiving your milk, and may help to better provide the nutrition your baby needs.
The most common ways of adding nutrients and calories include the following:
How long your baby receives added nutrients and calories will depend on your baby's age, weight, physical condition, and ability to effectively breastfeed.