Feeding a Baby with a Heart Condition

Breastfeeding a baby with a heart condition

If you are concerned about breastfeeding your baby in hospital because she has a heart condition, don't be. It is perfectly okay to breastfeed and in fact it even offers advantages over bottle feeding, in addition to the well-known nutritional benefits of breast milk. It's easier for babies with heart conditions to suck, swallow, and breathe when breastfeeding than bottle feeding, since it happens more naturally. It allows them to take in more oxygen and contributes to a more normal heart rate. It is important that a mother maintain a normal breast milk volume.

Depending on your baby's condition, you may need to speak to a lactation consultant or your baby’s nurse about how best to hold her, both for your baby's comfort and to be mindful of any healing considerations after surgery. Lactation consultants or breastfeeding support nurses are available at most hospitals and they can address any particular breastfeeding concerns you may have.

Expressing milk for a baby with a heart condition

Your baby may not be well enough to feed from your breast. Or, if a diagnosis of congenital heart disease is made shortly after birth, and your baby needs immediate treatment, your baby may not be able to start nursing right after delivery. In this case, express (pump)​ your breast milk about every three hours with a hospital-approved breast pump to establish and maintain a normal breast milk supply.

Bottle feeding a baby with a heart condition

Some babies with heart conditions struggle when feeding from a bottle. There are some bottle nipples available that are softer, shaped differently, or that have a larger hole which can help ease the problem. The nurse or an occupational therapist can help address any bottle feeding concerns you may have.

Medication and bottle feeding

If you have to regularly give your baby medication by syringe, generally it's best to do so before feedings. It's not a good idea to mix the medication into the formula because the baby may not consume the entire serving. ​

Joyce Touw

Debbie Stone