Breastfeeding in the NICU
Overcoming Breastfeeding Challenges in the NICU
By: Kelby Carr on: Sun 09 of Sep, 2007 [01:48 UTC] (2862 reads)
When your baby is in the NICU, it is even more important that he or she get powerful breast milk. In fact, the breast milk of the mother of a preemie is specifically engineered for a premature baby. It isn't always easy to breastfeed in the NICU, however. Here are tips on breastfeeding in the NICU.
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Get a Good Start
Many times, moms of NICU babies are not even allowed to breastfeed their newborn baby. In fact, moms sometimes go hours or even days before seeing their NICU baby. On top of that, the stress of having a baby in the NICU can interfere with the start of breastfeeding and breast milk production.
This is why it's even more crucial to get a good start and get as much support as possible. In the delivery wing of the hospital, insist they bring a breast pump and ask for the hospital's lactation consultant. Do not delay, and make that request as soon as you deliver (or ask your husband to do this).
Pump and Save The "Liquid Gold"
Even though it is hard to find motivation to pump when you're stressed and exhausted, try to pump as soon as you feel able. Be sure you insist that your NICU baby get your first breast milk pumped, even if it is a tiny amount. This golden-tinted milk is called colostrum.
The reason it is so important for preemies to get this first milk is that it is jam-packed with nutrients and the mother's own anti-bodies, which can help a NICU baby fight off infections.
Even if your NICU baby cannot have breast milk yet and is on IV, insist they freeze the colostrum and feed it to your baby as soon as possible. Tell the NICU nurses you want to be there for that feeding. That way, you can be sure your baby gets it.
Press the Issue of Breastfeeding
For NICU nurses and doctors, formula can be extremely tempting. It puts weight on babies faster, but it isn't as perfect a food for babies as breast milk.
You can sometimes face a battle insisting your baby get breast milk, even expressed breast milk. It can be even harder to get a chance to breastfeed.
Even if they tell you no, keep asking when your baby will be able to be picked up and nursed. If they tell you no, also ask why you can't breastfeed. Always push the issue, but do realize there can be legitimate reasons for them to say no.
Get Comfortable Breastfeeding in the NICU
Ask if there is some way to get privacy for a nursing session, and ask that the nurse leave you alone to it if that will make you feel more comfortable.
Request the assistance of the hospital lactation consultant, and don't be surprised or feel guilty if your baby is reluctant to nurse. NICU babies aren't always ready. Just keep trying at every feeding in which you are there.
NICU babies can get sleepy during breastfeeding sessions. Try undressing your NICU baby down to a diaper and pressing the baby against your body for warmth. You can even use a cool cloth across your baby's skin to keep him or her alert for the feeding.
Experiment with different breasts. Sometimes, a baby has a side preference.
Pump and Go
The best way to stay on a course to breastfeeding your NICU baby, both in the NICU and after your baby goes home, is to keep your supply up. This can be extremely hard with the exhaustion and stress of repeated trips to the hospital.
Pump frequently, and just keep pumping. Stay well hydrated, and eat well. Save your breast milk to take to the hospital, and keep them in good supply so they don't turn to formula.
If they suggest supplementing with formula, ask yourself and them if it's really necessary. If you have enough milk to keep up with your baby's feedings, there should be no reason to supplement.
Seek Help for Breastfeeding in the NICU
Finally, give yourself a break. Do all you can, but realize you might need help. If the NICU nurses and even the hospital's lactation consultant aren't providing enough support, contact La Leche League, an experienced breastfeeding mom friend, or even consider hiring a post-partum doula.