Babies with cardiomyopathy can be breastfed or bottlefed, but they may not be able to tolerate a large amount of milk at one feeding. Since babies with heart conditions tend to tire quickly, frequent "on-demand" feedings tend to work best. On average, an infant should gain about one ounce per day from birth to 3 months, and one-half per day from 3 months to 1 year. Consistent weight gain is a good gauge of health and sufficient milk intake.
Contrary to belief, breastfeeding is actually less work than bottle-feeding for babies with a heart condition. Besides offering many nutritional benefits, it is easier for a baby to coordinate sucking, swallowing, and breathing. The amount of available oxygen is greater and the baby's heart rate and breathing are more normal during breastfeeding.
If you are breastfeeding and your baby's suck is weak and he/she is not gaining weight well, you should seek the advice of a lactation nurse or feeding specialist. The La Leche League is a valuable resource for locating a lactation consultant or nurse in your area. They may suggest using special feeding products or supplementary nursing system to help your baby feed more. Most likely, you will also advise you to use a breast pump to maintain your milk supply.
Bottle-fed babies may have difficulty feeding from a regular nipple or may change their nipple preference after hospitalization or surgery. You can either use a softer type of nipple or slightly enlarge the nipple hole to allow the formula to flow more easily. If your baby continues to have poor weight gain, your doctor, nurse or nutritionist may recommend switching to a higher calorie formula. In severe cases, the doctor or nutritionist may suggest using a feeding tube to supplement.
Increasing Calorie Intake
For babies that are not gaining enough weight, the nutritionist or doctor may recommend using concentrated or higher calorie formula for bottle feed babies. When changing formula, it should be gradually introduced over a course of a month. This allows your child time to adapt to the new taste and gives you time to observe for possible side effects. Typical signs of intolerance are vomiting, diarrhea, rash or gas.
Other ways to increase calories include adding iron-fortified baby cereal to the formula and mixing corn oil into the milk for older babies.