How to establish your milk supply while your preemie is in the NICU

kangaroo-care-23If your baby is in the NICU, you may not be able to breastfeed the way you imagined. But providing your preemie with your breast milk will give her the best start in life.

Here are some tips to help establish your milk supply:

Ask for support

Seek out the help of a Lactation Consultant. She is a person with special training to help women breastfeed. A Lactation Consultant will be the best person to assist you with your breastfeeding goals. Your partner, friends and family are also there to support you during this important time.

Pump or express your milk early

Your milk is designed to meet your baby’s needs, so even though your baby was born early, the milk you make in the early days has a higher amount of antibodies to help her fight off infection. If your preemie is too small, sick or has birth defects that prevent her from breastfeeding, pump or hand express your milk as soon as possible. Your Lactation Consultant will be able to help you find the pump that works best for you. Ask your consultant if the milk you pump can be given to your baby in the NICU.

Spend time with your baby

If your baby’s nurse says it is OK, practice skin-to-skin or kangaroo care with your preemie. Not only is this beneficial for your baby, but having her so close will help you make more breast milk. Pumping or expressing your milk right after holding your baby skin-to-skin, or just smelling your baby’s scent, is an effective way to increase your supply as well.

Keep track & increase supply

Massage your breasts before and during your pumping session to maximize your output and improve the flow of your milk. Keep track of your pumping sessions with a log or notebook. This will help you remember how often you pump and how much milk you express. New moms get very tired – a log will help you remember when you last pumped. If you have questions or concerns, speak with your consultant and discuss your pumping log.

Where’s my milk?

After you give birth, you will start to see drops of colostrum, which is incredibly beneficial for your baby. In the beginning you may find it is easier to express your colostrum by hand into a spoon to feed directly to your baby. If you pump, these drops may get stuck in your breast pump parts. Have your consultant show you the best technique. Keep in mind, if you pump, you may not see any milk during your first few pumping sessions – do not be discouraged. Keep at it and ask your consultant for help and support.

Remember to avoid smoking, caffeine and alcohol. Speak with your health care provider about any medications you may be taking to be sure they are safe to take while breastfeeding.

Bottom line:

Stay positive. A pump can’t replace a warm baby at your breast, but any breast milk you supply your baby will help him get stronger and healthier each day. And soon he will be out of the NICU and in your arms!

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One Response to “How to establish your milk supply while your preemie is in the NICU”

  1. Joanne Says:

    My pumpkin was in the NICU after being born at 36 weeks. They formula fed him for the first couple of days. But once I was able to squeeze out the first few drops, I made sure they gave it to him. I was amazed at the transformation once he started getting my milk through his feeding tube. I speak from experience, every tiny drop helps! I’m happy to say he’s now 3.5 months old and a whopping 13 lbs with no lingering effects from his early arrival.

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