Creating a Positive Feeding Experience: Your Decisions are Powerful

By Sue Ludwig and Kara Ann Waitzman

If you walked around your NICU today, you could likely make a long list of inconsistencies regarding feeding practice – the way each caregiver prepares the baby for feeding, the way feeding success is explained to the family, how much parental involvement is encouraged.

If breastfeeding – what’s the advice you’d hear regarding nipple shield or no nipple shield, positioning, or pre and post weights? If bottle feeding – what’s the advice you’d hear regarding standard flow nipple or slow flow nipple (and which type), or if a commercial bottle system would be better? Does everyone warm milk or do some use room temperature milk?

Sometimes, in the midst of all of that guidance, we forget one thing: the power of our decisions. We forget that a small impressionable human is on the receiving end of those choices, and that if we’re not careful, he will have a different experience every shift, every day. We forget that he gets to vote.

He votes with his behavior, competency, safety, and stability. Our biggest job is to listen, assess based on the best evidence available, and respond consistently in kind. That job is difficult when we’re not all on the same page, making decisions from the same place. It’s difficult when we let anything or anyone other than the infant and our reliable and sound education drive those decisions.

It is not fair (or safe) for his feeding experiences to vary dramatically based on our own presumptions, preferences, culture, and biases. Collectively, the hundreds of mini-decisions your NICU makes every day combine into ONE feeding experience for him, good or bad.

We know you want nothing but the best for him.

Choose wisely. Consistently. Collaboratively.

Your decisions are powerful.