Pumping Breast Milk for Preemie Made Easy

Congratulations on becoming a mum. We understand that your concerns about your little one are valid since premature babies need extra love and care. The good news is that breast milk is the best and the most important thing you can give your preemie. Nothing compares to the nourishment your breastmilk can provide, and your preemies can benefit oodles from it.


All babies need the traditional benefits of breastmilk but for preemies, it can be a game changer. Premature babies are at a greater risk of facing health related issues, in addition to other challenges. We are not saying this to scare you but to prep you and equip you with the right information and tools to make those early days as comfortable and smooth as possible.


One of the biggest challenges you might have to face is breastfeeding your preemie in the NICU. To begin with, you must not shy away from seeking help from nurses and lactation directors who are there to help you. Babies who are born early might not feed at the breast right away. Owing to the tiny size of your baby and under-developed muscles, it might be difficult for your little one to either latch or staying latched for a long time. The feeding period might get longer because of this. Hang in there, be patient and you will see how you have support from everywhere.


If your baby cannot latch


In the beginning, you may need to pump breastmilk that can be given to your baby through a bottle or tube. Pumped breastmilk has the nutrition quotient of the milk intact. If for any reason, your baby is unable to breastfeed, try pumping your breasts to express its milk using an electric breast pump. It's a proven fact that your milk production is directly proportional to the frequency with which you pump or feed. It’s a wrong notion that giving birth to a preemie is responsible for low milk production. Chances are high that the stress of giving birth to a preemie might not help your milk production soon after birth, but you will observe a noticeable improvement in the quantity over the next 10 days.


What type of breast pump should you use?


According to recent studies, mothers of preemies in the beginning should begin pumping using double electric breast pump, ensuring maximum milk production at a go. The breast pump catalyses the release of milk-producing hormone called prolactin. Personal-use breast pumps are best for mothers who are nursing every day and regularly so. These pumps may not be adequate to maintain a decent supply for someone pumping exclusively for her preemie. Personal-use breast pumps are the best once you bring the baby home and it has gotten used to feeding from your breasts. Meanwhile, it's advisable to go for a double electric breast pump till the time your baby is in the NICU.

How often should you pump?


If your baby is in the NICU or unable to latch onto the breast, you will need to pump each time your baby would have had a feeding. this is the best way of ensuring adequate breast milk for your preemie. You need to pump 7-10 times over the course of a day, or every couple of hours in the first two weeks. both the breasts should be pumped simultaneously for 15 minutes per session, or 100 minutes a day. Mothers of multiples will need to pump longer and more frequently, in order to meet the feeding demands of the babies.


How long should a pumping session last?


During the initial days after birth, some mothers express very little amounts of milk. It is advisable to pump for at least fifteen minutes during this phase. The last droplets of milk released during pumping contain very high levels of fat, which provides most of the calories in breast milk that your preemie needs to heal and grow. These calories form an essential part of your baby’s feedings. When you continue to pump, your body is signalled to produce more milk than usual, thereby increasing the overall supply. and continuing to pump signals your body that more milk is needed than it's produced so that your supply will grow. Make it a thumb rule to not pump for more than thirty minutes. If your milk does flow for that long steadily, there won’t be a need to pump as frequently as someone who can express in less time.


For a new mother of a preemie, it can get emotionally very taxing. You need to remember that you are not alone in this. We recommend contacting support groups around your residence that conduct post-natal workshops. Spending valuable time with other mothers who are facing the same issues as you can bring significant relief. Involving your partner and other family members can go a long way in making your breastfeeding journey a smooth one.