In the NICU - Feeding
If your baby is very preterm or unwell, they may not be able to breastfeed at the start. If so, you can express (pump) your milk to provide it to your baby in another way, e.g. through a feeding tube.
The booklet ‘Breastfeeding and expressing for your premature or sick infant’ is an excellent resource and provides a lot of information to help you get started. We encourage you to refer to this as a guide throughout https://www.healthpromotion.ie/hp-files/docs/HCU00972.pdf.
Let us take you through days 1, 2 and 3+ of expressing milk and how to optimise your milk supply.
In this part, we talk to you about how to express milk and give you tips to make it easier for you. Expressing milk means using your hands or a breast pump to take milk from your breast. The first few days you will not produce much milk, but after that, you can expect your supply to increase each day over the first couple of weeks until you achieve a full supply.
Your milk is produced in response to demand, the more you express, the more you produce. We encourage you to start as soon as you can and to express regularly throughout the day and night – by doing this you will have more milk.
It may take a little time to learn how to express, but staff are here to help you and remember, practice makes perfect.
You need to express frequently and effectively to optimise your supply.
Tips to help optimise your milk supply when expressing
Expressing room is available if it does not suit to express at your baby's bedside
Power pumping involves regular cycles of expressing and rest while massaging your breasts.
For example, express for about 20 minutes, then ‘rest’ for about 10 minutes, then express again for 10 minutes and continue to swap between expressing and resting every 10 minutes or so for about an hour. During the ‘rest’, pause the pump and continue to massage and apply warmth to your breasts.
Try adding 1-3 x 1 hour power pumping sessions per day for 2-3 days to help boost a low supply. You can discontinue power pumping when your supply has increased.
We suggest you keep a diary to record the times you express and the amount of milk you produce each time. This can be useful to identify if there is an issue.
PReterm Infants need Milk Early (PRIME)
PRIME is a multidisciplinary initiative first introduced at the National Maternity Hospital, Dublin to help get breast milk from mothers to their babies in the neonatal unit without delay. It highlights 7 steps for the first 7 days …
Further guidance on expressing milk, including a video showing how to hand express, is available at www.mychild.ie [LINK to sections on expressing milk https://www2.hse.ie/wellbeing/child-health/expressing-breast-milk/how-to-express-breast-milk.html / https://www2.hse.ie/wellbeing/child-health/expressing-breast-milk-for-premature-or-ill-babies.html