The month of August marks Breastfeeding Awareness Month, a campaign funded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services which hopes to empower women to commit to breastfeeding.
Breast milk is especially important for premature and medically-fragile infants. Because of their early births, they haven’t received all the antibodies and nutrients from their mother that they would have if they’d been full term. A mother’s milk is designed specifically for her baby. Breast milk produced by preemie moms has special nutrients not found in milk produced for full-term babies.
Breastfeeding in the NICU is a journey. Most NICU babies are not ready to nurse at the breast right away. Some need time to develop their feeding skills, to develop the necessary suck/swallow/breathe skills, and some may have challenges at the breast. Some parents choose to pump exclusively, even after their baby comes home. Some supplement with formula. The important thing to remember is everyone’s breastfeeding journey is different.
To kick off a month of breastfeeding awareness, we’ve gathered some of our most helpful content for parents of preemies starting or continuing on their breastfeeding journey.
Breastfeeding in the NICU: Advice from a Lactation Consultant. Lactation consultants understand first-hand how crucial breastfeeding is to premature babies. They also know the challenges mothers face and how much support is needed during this time for both mom and baby. We interviewed Kay Needles, an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant and NICU nurse at St. David’s Medical Center, to help identify some of the unique circumstances mothers of preemies might face.
How to Support a Breastfeeding Mom in the NICU. Supporting a breastfeeding mom is key. We consulted a group of NICU moms on what types of support they found most helpful in the NICU, and what kind of support they wished they had.
Preemie Nutrition: Increasing Your Milk Supply. It is not uncommon for moms of preemies to face challenges with milk production while their baby is in the NICU. Kay Needles, an internationally board certified lactation consultant and NICU nurse, shares with us tips for increasing milk production, as well as good practices for establishing your nursing and breastfeeding routine.
4 Lessons on Breastfeeding in the NICU. From one mom to another, contributor Shanna Thompson shares four valuable lessons she learned while breastfeeding her 27-weeker.
Breast Milk Donation: A Priceless Gift for Preemies. Contributor LaShanda Gordon shares her experience accepting donor milk for her preemie triplets and why she feels it helped give them the healthiest start in their NICU journey.
Trust the Process: Breastfeeding Preemie Twins. Breastfeeding in the NICU is one thing, but at home with preemie twins is another. Leigh Ann Torres shares the three words that kept her going from one daunting milestone to the next.
10 Questions About Providing Breast Milk to Your Preemie. In collaboration with Medela, we asked our audiences what questions they had about providing breast milk to their premature babies. Here are our answers to the ten most common questions we received.
Breastfeeding Through the Storm. Breastfeeding complications do not mean you’re a bad mom or a failure. Contributor Julie Cruz explains some of the reasons breastfeeding may be difficult for some NICU parents and provides tips based on her experience.
The Sky is the Limit: Breastfeeding a Vent-Dependant NICU Baby. Breastfeeding takes on all forms when you have a baby with special healthcare needs. Shoshanna Koch shares her experience pumping for, then breastfeeding her very low birthweight, premature and sick baby, even when he was ventilator-dependent.
Preemie Breastfeeding Success Story – Not What You’d Expect. Another story of breastfeeding taking on a different form, Laura Maikata shares how she provided breast milk for her G-tube-dependent preemie by exclusively pumping.
Additional breastfeeding resources