UPDATED AUGUST 2023
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.
Articles about breastfeeding your NICU baby, breastfeeding support, donor milk and fortification
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 and pumping
Breastfeeding Basics in the NICU. Every family’s feeding journey looks different. Feeding your baby may not look the way you imagined it, but feeding success is still possible.
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.
Why Breast Milk is Important for Your NICU Baby. Pediatricians and lactation consultants agree human milk is the best nutrition for babies. For the NICU baby, it can be a life-saving medicine.
Pumping Tips for NICU Moms. Pumping breast milk becomes a regular way of life for many NICU moms. We consulted the experts – current and past NICU moms, NICU nurses and lactation consultants – for their best pumping tips.
Exclusive Pumping: A Different Perspective on Breastfeeding. Preemie twin mom Ali discusses how exclusively pumping for her twins for 15 months helped empower her in feeling like she too could breastfeed.
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.
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.
Donor milk and fortification
Everything You Need to Know About Human Donor Milk in the NICU. Those who donate milk give an incredible gift to those who, for one reason or another, may not be able to provide their own milk for their baby.
Let’s Talk About Human Milk Fortifiers: What Is It, and Why Does My Baby Need It? Parents of babies in the NICU are often surprised to learn that sometimes a mother’s breast milk isn’t enough. In that case, they may need human milk fortifiers.
Know Your NICU Nutrition: The Importance of Appropriate Nutrition in the NICU. Familiarize yourself with the types of nutrition your baby will receive while in the NICU.
Going from Total Parenteral Nutrition to Feeding Success in the NICU. NICU mom Faith shares how she found feeding success in the NICU after her baby was born with a rare condition.
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.
Black Breastfeeding Week: Common Breastfeeding Challenges Black Moms Face. A 2014 study on breastfeeding disparities impacting African American and Hispanic women revealed several challenges black moms face that lead them to give up breastfeeding.
The Importance of Prenatal Breastfeeding Support for Black Moms. An important key to breastfeeding success for Black women is education and support, particularly in the prenatal period.
The Breastfeeding Support Black Moms Need. We spoke to Aphrica Farrow, a DONA-certified doula with Black Mamas ATX, about not just the challenges Black women face with breastfeeding, but also the methods of support she and her team provide to achieve a 100% breastfeeding initiation success rate among their moms.
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.
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.
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.
Podcast episodes about breastfeeding and NICU nutrition