ABCs of Breastfeeding in the NICU

Welcome to the March 2012 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Parenting With Special Needs

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama. This month our participants have shared how we parent despite and because of challenges thrown our way. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.

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Many many MANY sets of twins are born at term or only a bit early, and with no medical concerns. As a group, however, multiples have a increased risk of complications resulting from high risk pregnancy and/or premature delivery.  If your babies are born early or face any health challenges, they may spend some time in a hospital Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU).  The NICU can feel like an overwhelming alphabet soup at first, but NICU nurses are generally good at helping moms and dads figure out what’s going on and participate in their babies’ care as much as possible.

One of the most important things you can do for your babies while they are in the NICU is to provide breast milk for them.  Breast milk is especially important for fragile preemies, and even small amounts are valuable.  Many hospitals have lactation consultants who work specifically in the NICU, and some hospitals have peer support programs where NICU families can meet other families who had been in similar situations.

No one plans for a NICU stay, but if it turns out your babies need that extra support, here are some ABCs to help support you in your breastfeeding journey.

  • Ask to meet with a lactation consultant. NICU nurses are excellent at caring for your babies. An IBCLC will be able to work with you to establish your milk supply and work to introduce direct breastfeeding to your babies.
  • Bring one of your babies’ blankets with you when you’re pumping away from the hospital. Sometimes, it’s hard to relax and “let down” to a clunky breast pump. Sniffing the smell of your babies can help you relax and also stimulates an oxytocin response in the brain.
  • Cuddle your babies skin-to-skin as soon as you are able. Skin-to-skin care helps stabilize babies’ temperature and heart rate, and is great for stimulating milk production.

A few more tips from the rest of the alphabet:

  • Learning pumping and hand expression techniques (and combining them into “hands-on pumping“) can help maximize your milk production as your babies get stronger and learn to feed directly at the breast.
  • If your babies are very early or face medical complications that will result in a longer stay in the NICU, you may also want to check out the resources provided by the SPIN Program (Supporting Premature Infant Nutrition) at UC San Diego Medical Center. From pumping logs to videos, their resources can help you understand the steps you may take on your breastfeeding journey.
  • And whatever the situation, please reach out to other moms who have been in a similar place. Some hospitals run NICU mentoring programs, and your local parents of multiples group can probably connect you with moms who have been in a similar position. (That link is for US-based moms. In Canada, reach out to Multiple Births Canada. In the UK, contact TAMBA. And in Australia, contact the Australian Multiple Birth Association.)

Did you parent babies in the NICU? What tips would you share for establishing or maintaining breastfeeding?

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Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

(This list will be live and updated by afternoon March 13 with all the carnival links.)

6 Responses to ABCs of Breastfeeding in the NICU
  1. [...] ABCs of Breastfeeding in the NICU — Jona at Breastfeeding Twins offers tips for establishing breastfeeding in the alphabet soup of the NICU. [...]

  2. Only make promises you can keep «
    March 13, 2012 | 10:54 am

    [...] ABCs of Breastfeeding in the NICU — Jona at Breastfeeding Twins offers tips for establishing breastfeeding in the alphabet soup of the NICU. [...]

  3. [...] ABCs of Breastfeeding in the NICU — Jona at Breastfeeding Twins offers tips for establishing breastfeeding in the alphabet soup of the NICU. [...]

  4. [...] ABCs of Breastfeeding in the NICU — Jona at Breastfeeding Twins offers tips for establishing breastfeeding in the alphabet soup of the NICU. [...]

  5. You Don’t Have to Be a Rock
    April 9, 2013 | 5:03 pm

    [...] ABCs of Breastfeeding in the NICU — Jona at Breastfeeding Twins offers tips for establishing breastfeeding in the alphabet soup of the NICU. [...]

  6. [...] ABCs of Breastfeeding in the NICU — Jona at Breastfeeding Twins offers tips for establishing breastfeeding in the alphabet soup of the NICU. [...]

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