Still completely high on all the drugs I had had from my emergency c-section that delivered my precious little 28 weeker, I had what seemed like half a dozen nurses all rallied around my bed side with tiny syringes squeezing my boobs in ways they had never been squeezed before. Hubby at the end of my bed looking on in horror, a nurse turns to him and asks “would you like a go” his reply “ohhh no thanks I’ll pass” so with this all my dignity went out the door along with my pride, and we finally got the 1ml out that Lucas needed right away. Ever since that moment I was chained to my breast pump that sucked me to death every three hours for the next three months.
I cursed that machine, I hated it, I hated expressing in front of an audience, and there never seemed to be any privacy, I mean have you seen what a nipple looks like in one of those things, its not the prettiest sight! However despite all of this I knew that pumping breast milk in the NICU would help give my baby the best chance at growing and enjoying a healthy, normal life, I was lucky enough to be able to express enough milk to feed the entire unit!
Feeding babies in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), every drop of breast milk counts. Like Lucas, its often impossible for premature babies to breastfeed directly, so pumping breast milk is the best solution. The nurses and OTs will tell you that you should pump for 10-15 minutes every 3 hours, I did this religiously (Im a teachers pet, so I didn’t dear do anything else) it takes a lot out of you, it becomes the baine of your life, by the time you set everything up and sterilise everything afterwards, its time to start all over again!
The Auckland City hospital where I delivered Lucas provided me with a hand pump and a few supplies, as well as a storage place for me to keep the expressed milk and the supplies. Its all named and properly labeled. If you can get your hands on the up-to-date electric pumps then do so, they are much easier to use.
Getting that baby on the boob.
Finally the day came where Lucas was stable enough to come out of an incubator, into a cot, feeding tube removed and learned how to latch on and begun receiving nourishment from me directly, nursing sessions were still every three hours but it bet being attached to a pump. We were finally experiencing some precious bonding moments together that are long overdue. He was learning the suck-swallow-breathe routine, I would have to try and keep my sleepy preemie awake during breast feeding, sometimes removing some of his clothes or blankets so he wasn’t “too” warm and cosy”, we were now just all waiting for our baby to grow bigger and stronger
Here are some benefits of breast milk in the NICU
Evidence has shown that breast milk can improve a baby’s mental and physical development. Micronutrients in breast milk give your baby a head start, and every drop of milk can make all the difference to how quickly they grow strong and reach the point where they are able to go home.
Breast milk, especially colostrum, is important for premature babies, because it is their ‘first food’. Just by giving a baby breast milk, you are providing the nutrients, vitamins and minerals that they need to support a growing body and immune system. The contents of colostrum and breast milk are important for term infants and critical for preterm infants.
The value of breast milk in the NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit) is immeasurable, both for the health of the newborns and the impact it has on the hospital and families. Numerous studies show that breast milk has significant benefits for babies, parents, hospitals and society as a whole:
- shorter lengths of stay
- a reduced number of days of oxygen therapy
- fewer complications and re-admissions
- improved neurodevelopmental and long-term health outcomes
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Eats on Feets - Woman-to-Woman Milk Sharing
Eats on Feets connects mothers with extra breastmilk to families who would like breastmilk for their child. The service is simple. A family will request for milk, or offer some, and we help connect them with a donor/recipient. To offer/request, you can post onto our Facebook wall, or message our Facebook page for anonymity. Non-Facebook users can use the forum for New Zealand at www.eatsonfeets.org