By Brittany Elise Anderson RN-NICU, CLC
In my last post, I talked about the importance of breastmilk for premature babies because it boosts immunity and helps to prime the GI tract. However, producing breastmilk is not always easy when a baby arrives prematurely. Below are some great tips on how to promote breastmilk production for NICU moms.
1. Pumping early – the sooner the better
Premature babies are often admitted to the NICU while mom recovers from childbirth in a different area of the hospital. Without baby nearby to stimulate milk production, a mother separated from her baby must stimulate her body to produce milk by pumping. Milk production is demand and supply. Pumping every 2-3 hours helps to establish milk supply. The more a mom “demands” milk, the more she will supply.
2. Pumping every 2-3 hours to “place your order”
Infants eat every 2-3 hours, so a mother should pump every 2-3 hours as well. Electric breast pumps are vital for mom’s milk production when separated from her baby and there are many options available. Most insurance companies provide one breast pump every 36 months with a prescription from your OBGYN. Additionally, most hospitals offer hospital-grade pump rentals for a small fee. Many moms who have babies in the NICU qualify for a hospital-grade pump at no cost. The hospital social worker or lactation team can help moms get a home pump quickly after birth.
3. Skin to skin to make those awesome antibodies and bond with baby
Skin to skin allows a mommy to bond with her baby and helps her body to produce those amazing antibodies that help protect her baby from infection. These antibodies are better than any medicine, helping to prevent infection and promote immune development.
4. Hydration and balanced diet
It is important to eat a balanced diet and stay well-hydrated to produce adequate amounts of milk. Avoiding caffeinated beverages like coffee, coke, and tea will help moms stay hydrated. Moms should carry a bottle of water and make sure to refill it several times a day.
5. Support system
This might be the most important tip of them all. A pumping mother needs a strong support system cheering her on to keep up with pumping. She needs help with cleaning pump supplies and advocating for her to have time to pump while away from her baby. Most states have laws that help protect pumping moms’ rights to adequate break times to produce milk.