When you have a child in the NICU you can feel helpless. Having to ask permission to even touch your child while some stranger changes their diaper. You have to stand there while someone pokes and prods them. It is a hard thing for anyone to do.. Especially a raw-nerved hormonal, fresh from L and D mom, who has most likely had a c-section to remove her precious sick child from her body.
In the beginning there isn't much you can do, but there is one very important thing that ONLY you can, and should, do. You should pump. Even if you only get a drop or two, and at first that is all you will get, it will make a world of difference for your little one.
There are times when you feel so useless... But you make a huge, HUGE difference.
Before Christopher was born I was told by an OB, that a resident had done a study on babies born with similar heart conditions and above his expected birthweight.... 100% did not survive 2 weeks. I decided right then to do everything I could to give him the best chances possible.
One of the things I did was to pump and pump and pump. Studies have shown that babies given human milk go home, on average, 2 weeks sooner than those who get formula. They also have a MUCH LOWER risk of NEC which is a deadly condition where part of the intestines die. Formula also raises their risk of asthma, which is already high due to birth by C-section and artificial respirators. Formula just isn't worth the risk.
I pumped every 3 hours for the first month or so... Then dropped the 3am pumping when I almost threw it through a wall.
Christopher spent a long time with tiny feedings that I ended up building a surplus (yes those drops eventually build up into oz.. It will happen)
I now have a 9.0 cu ft chest freezer stuffed with only milk. Yep, huge. How did I do this? I'm gonna tell you, so you to can become a Pumping Queen.
•Set alarms- schedule pumping. I drove my DH crazy with all the alarms. When you get home you do NOT want to schedule, but feed on demand. Pumps don't demand so you need something to help you make sure you pump. When you skip pumps it can lower your supply
•Do NOT use the bottles that come with your pump!- get the small bottles they use to feed the babies in the NICU, you can also get them in Babies R Us. They should measure in ML from 0-50, not in OZ. It helps you to keep your hopes up. 20ml(cc) looks a whole lot better than "not even a full oz". Which is actually the same thing! It damages your hope if you keep looking at "not even a full oz" every 3 hours. Eventually you will over fill the little bottles and "graduate" to the bottles that came with your pump. You may even eventually graduate to the 10oz bottles! I have a friend that did!
•Flanges!- try different size flanges to find what is most comfortable. Incorrect sized flanges can cause so many problems.
•Get rid of those clots- deep tissue massage (oh it HURTS, I won't lie, but it works), apply heat before or during pumping and cold after.
•Avoid mastitis- keep your schedule and remove the clots ASAP. If it starts feeling bruised DO NOT STOP PUMPING! it will only make is worse!
•Supplies- Medela makes all sorts of extras. I got an extra ice pack so one could stay in the freezer while I carried the other one in my pump. The car power cord is awesome (yes I have pumped in traffic... Usually with DH at the wheel... Usually) I also had cleaning wipes, microwaveable cleaning bags, extra bottles and so much more.
•Pump it up!- there are things you can add to your diet to up your production. Oatmeal (not instant), mother's milk tea, and Gatoraid helped me. There are MANY things that can help, even cookies!
•Get support- yes you need a good pumping bra... But I mean the other kind. The Leaky B@@B and Best for Babies are two great ones (see ya there!)
•Stand up for you baby- some NICUs are not as well informed as others so do your own research so that if you get hit with "Why are you doing that, formula is fine" you will have the facts to back yourself up... Try not to smack them in the back of the head. If they insist that you are not making enough.. Ask about donor milk .. Yep formula is not the only option!
•Kangaroo- roo as soon as you can. Spending time skin to skin with your baby will help production, but you have to wait till they can be held. There are many more benefits to rooing but I'll list those later.
•Sleep!- make sure you sleep! Do not spend 24hrs/day at the NICU! I know it is hard. We usually spent 14-16 hrs/day there. The other 10-8 was eating and sleeping. Lack of sleep may end up not only killing your production but also your immunity... You don't want to risk your NICU access.
•Eat as healthy as possible- see sleep.
•Remember ML and cc are the SAME THING! An OZ is 30 ML/CCs! When the nurse says "Your baby gets 15CCs/feeding now!" and your "only" pumping 25ml at a time.. You are making MORE than your baby is eating :)
•Label your milk! Make sure your containers have your babies name, the date pumped and the amount it contains. Milk expands when frozen, which makes it difficult for the nurses to know how much they are thawing. Labeling the amount keeps them from over-thawing so they don't have to throw away milk.
•Try the Marmet Technique while Pumping, it really helps get those last little bits, speeds up the process and clear clots. (update: a study has shown that mom's who hand express within the first 72 hours have a higher output MONTHS later!!)
Ok everyone say it with me now "Mmoooooo". Happy pumping :)
Did I miss anything?