The Beginners Guide to Breastfeeding and Pumping
- Breastmilk offers amazing benefits to NICU babies such as
- easier to digest and great for their little bellies
- antibodies to fight infection
- Brain and cognitive development
- Increases the bond between mom and baby
- NICU babies are usually away from their mothers, so pumping of breast milk is very important.
- Eventually, when the baby gets bigger and is more stable, breastfeeding can be established.
My son was born at 31 5/7. From the beginning, I had a good milk supply.
This is because I implemented certain strategies and techniques that I knew to help establish my milk supply.
I plan to share my strategies and what I learned about pumping for a NICU baby in a blog post, so stay tuned!
Around 33 wks, I started putting my son to the breast to practice breastfeeding and positioning.
I had a hard time latching, so I used a nipple shield.
Even with the nipple shield, I had a hard time breastfeeding.
Also, I was paranoid that my son wasn’t getting enough milk from breastfeeding and he wouldn’t grow.
I needed to know exactly how much milk volume he was drinking.
Therefore, that’s when I decided to exclusively pump!
I exclusively pumped for 8 months!!
And man, that was hard!!!
My whole day consists of pumping, feeding my baby and washing pump parts….. every 3 hrs!
It was a lot of work, but I’m so grateful I did it.
On this journey, I learned tips and tricks with exclusively pumping and breastfeeding that I would love to share with my fellow NICU moms
How to get started with Breastfeeding and Pumping in the NICU
- To establish pumping when your baby is in the NICU, you need a set of double pumping kits.
- You also need a hospital grade pump in the first 4-6 wks.
- Once your milk is established, you can switch to a smaller breast pump.
- Check out this post on the 5 best breast pumps for pumping for a NICU baby.
- You need to create a schedule of pumping for yourself and hold yourself accountable
- You need to eat well and always drink lots of water when you are pumping
- Keep track of your milk volumes, so you know if there are any changes to your milk production.
Common Questions/FAQ About Pumping and Breastfeeding in the NICU
I just gave birth and I am only getting drops. Is this normal?
Yes, at the beginning it’s normal to be only getting drops of colostrum. Those drops or small syringes of milk are essential and full of amazing antibodies. So feel free to give it to your baby in their mouth if you can. At the beginning, the key is to keep pumping every 3 hrs to empty your breast and stimulate your body to make more breastmilk for your baby. Don’t miss out on a pumping session.
What can I do early on to establish a good milk supply?
There are many things that are important to do. This includes pumping every 3 hrs and even at night to stimulate the breast, hand expressing milk from your breast, drinking lots of water, resting as much as you can (this is hard as a NICU mom.. I know), and using a strong hospital grade pump at the beginning of your pumping journey. Check out this blog: 7 Amazing Breast Pumping Tips for NICU Moms for more information.
What foods can I eat to help with my milk supply?
There are many foods that are available to help increase your milk supply. This includes oatmeal, avocados, garlic, lots of water or Gatorade and eating healthy meals consistently. Be careful with herbs and teas as this can decrease the milk supply for some mothers.
My baby is 2 months old and my milk is decreasing. What can I do to increase my milk supply?
When you are away from your baby, you have to actively put more work in to keep your milk supply up. So having a dip in your milk supply after a month or two is common. Some things you can do is pump in the NICU (beside your baby) and after skin to skin, smell your baby’s blanket or look at photos before pumping, and try power pumping for a couple of days. I will be writing a blog post on more tips and tricks moms can use to help bring back their milk supply.
I’m going back to work. Tips to pumping at work and what supplies do I need?
Going back to work is stressful, especially if you have to leave your baby and they are still young. The biggest tip is to pack your bag the night before with everything you need. Also, buy double of everything… double flanges, milk collection bottles and valves/membranes, in case you forget a part, Also, take your baby’s blanket or onesies with you to work, so you can smell it during pumping to help with let down. I’ll be writing a blog post on this topic so stay tuned.
My baby went home on half fortification and half breast milk. Can I stop the fortification?
This is a good question, as many premature babies go home on fortification. Fortification is needed because of its extra calories for the baby to grow. The con of fortification is that it can make the baby very gassy and uncomfortable, so many parents want to stop the fortification. My recommendation is to talk with your doctor or pediatrician about the growth of your baby and if you can decrease the fortification.
The Last Thing You Need to Know About Breastfeeding and Pumping in the NICU
Pumping for your NICU baby is not easy.
It takes serious work and commitment.
But as long as you keep your milk supply up, you can eventually breastfeed.
Last but not least I want to say that if you cannot pump or breastfeed anymore because of your mental health, lifestyle, going back to work… then formula is completely fine too!
A fed baby is what we want!
So don’t forget to take care of yourself.
And any choice you make is the best choice for you and your baby.
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I would love to hear from you!