Lactation Expertise Serves NICU Families
The anticipation of a baby’s birth is an exciting time for many people. The mother-to-be is anxiously awaiting the arrival of the newest family member and has given some thought about how she will feed that child. Many mothers choose to breastfeed so that their baby can receive the numerous advantages of breastmilk. When a baby is sent to the NICU, many of the things that a mother anticipated are taken away: skin to skin holding immediately following delivery, breastfeeding early, and spending every moment getting to bond with the baby. The NICU is a frightening place and the mother sees her baby in this complex medical environment, feeling somewhat helpless. Pumping milk is the only thing that she can “do” for her baby as she watches the various caretakers provide the care that she feels she should be providing for her baby. Studies show that establishing a milk supply and eventually establishing a breastfeeding relationship helps a mother establish her role and view herself as a “good mother” which may be a factor for higher sensitivity and secure attachment to the baby.
There are numerous advantages to breastfeeding, but for the preterm or medically complex baby, these advantages become paramount. The baby in the NICU who receives his mother’s milk has greater enteral feeding tolerance and realizes full enteral feedings quicker than his/her formula-feeding counterparts. They also have reduced risk and severity of infection, reduced risk and severity of necrotizing enterocolitis, reduced risk of atopic disease for those infants with a family history, enhanced retinal maturation and visual acuity, enhanced neurodevelopmental and neurocognitive outcomes and greater physiological stability during breastfeeding than bottle feeding. Shorter NICU stays and reduced rates of readmission during the first year have also been seen.
Mothers who make the choice to breastfeed face many challenges. Initiation of milk supply ideally begins within the first hour after birth. The mother is then challenged with pumping eight or more times in a 24-hour period. She is expected to achieve a full milk supply within 2-3 weeks. This is a lofty goal and one that is difficult to reach without support. ProgenyHealth case managers contact the new mother soon after birth and assist her with securing a breast pump while providing information, support and encouragement. They can also arrange for contact from a Lactation Consultant who will call the mother and provide telephonic help to her both in the hospital and for the year following the baby’s birth. Access to case managers and a lactation consultant have helped many mothers continue with their breastfeeding efforts and ultimately reach and often surpass their breastfeeding goals.
ProgenyHealth is fully committed to increasing breastfeeding rates and is proud to part of this journey for our clients and families.
About Our Author:
Donna More’, RN, MSN,FNP-BC, IBCLC, has been board certified by IBLCE in lactation for 30 years while maintaining a volunteer position with La Leche League for 36 years. As a nurse, Donna has worked in NICU for 14 years, coordinated a Mothers’ Milk bank, and previously worked in utilization review at ProgenyHealth. She currently works as a lactation consultant in the intensive care nursery. She enjoys spending time with her husband, children and grandchildren.