Breastfeeding in the NICU

Some babies in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) will be able to breastfeed, while others may need to get breast milk from a bottle or feeding tube. Even if your baby is unable to receive breast milk until after leaving the NICU, we want to make sure you have the tools necessary to provide it for them.

As your baby grows in the NICU, you can begin providing breast milk to help give your baby a healthy start. Nutrient-rich breast milk offers newborns calories for growth and contains special antibodies to help ward off illness and infection.

Begin using a breast pump to express milk as soon as possible after your baby's birth. This will help your body begin to produce milk. Pump eight to ten times a day — never going more than five hours without pumping — to simulate a typical newborn's feeding schedule. This will help you start making enough milk for when your newborn is ready to begin nursing.

Use sterilized containers to store your milk and sterilized bottles to feed your baby. Breast milk keeps up to one week in the refrigerator, up to six months in a standard freezer, and up to one year in a deep freezer.

There is no one-size-fits-all method for achieving effective breastfeeding with a high-risk baby, because each one and his or her situation is different. Give your premature or high-risk baby extra time to learn to breastfeed, and let the baby set the pace for learning. It may take longer than expected, however, you both can become a breastfeeding team through patience, persistence and a healthy perspective.

Certified Lactation Educators provide encouragement, support, and expertise when you need it. They remain in the hospital between 8 a.m. and midnight, and are available 24 hours a day via pagers. You can even schedule a face-to-face outpatient consultation for additional support after you and your baby have returned home.

Talk to a Certified Lactation Educator:

By phone (8AM to 10PM): 806.775.8864

By pager (24 hours a day): 806.761.9414

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