Breastfeeding Challenges If Baby Admitted To NICU

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What if your baby is admitted to the NICU?

This may delay your feeding plans, but you will be able to breastfeed when your baby's condition stabilizes.

In spite of this delay, there are steps you can take to prepare for the time when nursing can occur. Remember, you are the only one who can supply that ideal food - mother's milk - for your baby. Human breast milk is filled with living white cells and antibodies to fight against infection, as well as the perfect balance of proteins, fats, vitamins, minerals and electrolytes. Even more remarkable is the fact that mother's milk changes to meet the needs of the growing infant. At birth, breast milk is in the form of colostrum. Colostrum is a golden-yellow liquid and contains proteins, minerals, and disease-preventing properties that are very beneficial to your baby. It protects your baby from infection and it decreases the likelihood of developing allergies. Gradually, over the next four weeks, your colostrum will be changing to mature breast milk, which is a bluish watery liquid. Research has shown that the mother of a premature infant will produce different milk from that of a full term infant. Your breast milk is specifically designed for your premature baby's digestive system and growth needs. It is truly "white gold", that only you, baby's mother, can supply for your baby.

We would like you to start pumping within 6-12 hours after baby's birth. We recommend that you double pump your breasts every 2-3 hours during the day and at least once at night when your body awakens you or 8 times every 24 hours. Do not be discouraged if milk is not obtained with early pumpings. Small drops will be seen with pumping by your hospital discharge.

Your goal would be to pump 25-35 ounces every 24 hours. To achieve a full milk supply be patient, if you start pumping right away and pump often you will achieve the volume goal. Remember to focus on the number of pumpings per day (8-10) not on the time between pumpings. If you find it simpler focus on the total milk volume pumped every 24 hours. 

Dietary Needs With Breastfeeding/Pumping

It is important that you eat a well-balanced diet while nursing. You should eat sensibly and to satisfy your appetite. You need only add 500 additional calories to your pre-pregnant diet to provide energy for milk production. No foods need to be eliminated from your diet unless they seem to bother the baby.

You may notice that you are more thirsty when pumping or nursing, so drink to satisfy your thirst. Drink at least eight to 10 glasses of fluid daily. Limit fluids containing caffeine to one to two cups per day. Caffeine is transferred to the baby unchanged. It stays in the baby's body for long periods of time and can cause irritability or sleep problems. So have your caffeinated fluids earlier in the day. Continue to take your prenatal vitamin daily.

Kangaroo Care

If your baby is not able to breast feed, your nurse will help promote closeness between you and your baby through "Kangaroo Care." This is where your baby is placed skin-to-skin on your chest to nurture the baby through your warmth, touch, smell and closeness.

Milk Changes Throughout Your Pumping

Express one drop of milk before and after a feeding and see the difference!

Foremilk is watery to satisfy thirst. Hindmilk is creamy to satisfy hunger and promotes weight gain in your baby.

Why avoid bottles?

Hungry crying baby leads to an anxious mother, then the baby is given water or formula. There is an easy flow from the bottle which allows the baby to become lazy about sucking which leads to reduced sucking time and less milk being produced.

When can I expect to breastfeed?

Ask your baby's doctor when you can expect to nurse your baby. Until routine breastfeedings are established, your baby may be given your milk through an NG tube. Continue to pump routinely until baby is nursing vigorously (10-15 minutes/breast) at a feeding.