When I called the family, they were on their way to the hospital. It was an unexpected turn of events. I wished them well and, in our brief conversation, gave one piece of advice. Most hospitals will have a breast pump, she could use the hospital one if she needed to express milk.
They had left unexpectedly and she did not bring a pump with her. She could keep breastfeeding if the baby was well enough. Otherwise, pumping or expressing meant she could still feed her baby human breast milk and she would maintain her supply.
Providing human breast milk is important because of the active immune factors. These are especially important at a time when the baby is so vulnerable. Human breast milk protects your child’s gut from germs, bacteria, viruses, and allergens. In addition, breast milk is easier to digest. Human Breast Milk is different, in these and other ways, from formula so it is an important choice you make.
In the hospital, your baby can breastfeed or bottle-feed or use other feeding methods to get human breast milk. You still need to maintain your milk supply. If your baby is not breastfeeding regularly, you will need to express milk every three hours. Bring your own pump to use or use one from the hospital in the room with your child.
Here’s how to make pumping easier. Gentle breast massage with pumping is more effective than only pumping. This is called Hands-on Pumping. Dr. Jane Morton has a helpful video that demonstrates this. Her research was focused on premature babies, though this applies to any size or age baby.
If you have no pump, hand expression works, too. Here is a good video to demonstrate this.
Feed your own breast milk to your baby or store it for later. The Centers for Disease Control have published guidelines for storing breastmilk. At a hospital, there will most likely be a refrigerator in the room you can use. Label the container with the baby’s last name, the date and time that you pumped. Use the older milk first.
If you haven’t got a supply of milk for your baby, some hospitals can provide Pasteurized Donor Human Milk (PDHM) for your baby. That way, your baby will still get the benefits of Human Breast Milk and you will have some time to express your own and build a supply for your baby.
In Maine, these are hospitals that have Pasteurized Donor Human Milk:
• Central Maine Medical Center • LincolnHealth Miles Memorial- Maternity • Maine Medical Center Newborn Nursery • Maine Medical Center NICU
• MaineGeneral Medical Center •Pen Bay Medical Center • St. Mary’s Regional Medical Center •Waldo County General Hospital
Skin to skin, your voice and warmth are comforting. Breast milk is so beneficial for your baby. Eventually you and your baby will return to some kind of normalcy and hopefully, you will have maintained a milk supply. In the midst of these worrying times, know that all that you provide for your baby: your warmth, your voice and your breast milk makes a difference.