There are many challenges to breastfeeding a baby in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). Don’t be shy about letting the nurses know that you plan to breastfeed. Babies who are born early can’t always feed at the breast right away. Because of their small size and lack of muscle development, they may have a harder time latching on or staying latched on to the breast. Feedings can take longer than normal because of this. Hang in there, Mom, and don’t give up. If you need help, the hospital’s lactation director can provide great support.
In the beginning, you may need to pump breastmilk that can be given to your baby through a bottle or tube. Your baby will still get the same rich nutrients from your pumped breastmilk. If your baby cannot breastfeed, pump both of your breasts using an electric breast pump. It’s important to start as soon as possible and to pump often. The more you breastfeed or pump, the more milk your body will make. WIC has breast pumps for moms who are enrolled in the program. If you think you may need a breast pump and are enrolled or eligible, talk to a WIC Lactation Consultant. If your baby needs milk before your milk comes in, you may be able to get milk from your local milk bank. Eventually, your baby will be strong enough to nurse from your breast. Most premature babies become much better at breastfeeding around the time of their original due date, so don’t give up if your baby doesn’t latch right away. Keep trying! You can also get help from a WIC peer counselor.