Can I still breastfeed if my baby is in the NICU?

Maternal Bond: Mother And Child (New-born Baby)Although we have the best nurses, providers, and other specially trained professionals caring for your infant while in the NICU, there is one thing we cannot do, and that’s provide breastmilk.

As a NICU mom, you have the most important job: be there for your baby and provide milk so he/she can grow big and strong. Even if your infant is too sick or too small to breastfeed, you can still pump breastmilk, which the nurses can give to your baby.

Colostrum, or the first milk, is often called “Liquid Gold” because of its color and value to the infant. Colostrum is very high in protein and easily digested. It helps prevent low blood sugar in infants, protects the infant against infection, and coats the infant’s gut with good bacteria. In the NICU, it is treated like medicine!

Colostrum contains high concentrations of protective components, like antioxidants, for these fragile babies. When the baby’s gut is exposed to colostrum it stimulates the baby’s immature immune system and helps develop the protective gut immune barrier. Colostrum has antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties, and it contains protein that helps prevent bacteria.

Every little bit of breastmilk provided to these babies is beneficial, even if it is just a few drops. Most of our moms express more milk after holding their infant skin-to-skin or while sitting at their infant’s bedside compared to what they pump at home thanks to that great hormone, oxytocin.

While at home, however, our NICVIEW live video monitoring system provides moms the opportunity to watch their baby as they pump from home. The ability to see the baby can help produce the oxytocin hormone, which in turn helps produce more milk supply.

If you’re a NICU mom, provide your baby with the best nutrients you can give them – breastmilk.

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About Teri Spurling, RN, IBCLC

Teri Spurling, RN, IBCLC, has worked at UofL Hospital for 42 years, even since graduating from UofL’s School of Nursing in 1977. Within the Center for Women & Infants at UofL Hospital, she served in the newborn nursery for 28 years, and was on the Mother/Baby unit for two years before becoming an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant in 2012. She also serves on the Baby-Friendly committee for the hospital.

All posts by Teri Spurling, RN, IBCLC