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Breast Pumping for NICU

How to Use a Breast Pump for a NICU Baby

Congratulations on your decision to provide breast milk to your NICU baby. The first breast milk that you make is called colostrum or “Liquid Gold,” which is high in antibodies that protects your baby from infections, bowel disease, and complications. It is important to start expressing your colostrum within the first 6 hours. You may only pump drops of colostrum at first. Manual expression is best in the first days, but together with using an electric pump, you will start to produce more breast milk in a couple of days.

Choosing a Breast Pump for Home

  1. Many insurance companies provide breast pumps. Call your insurance for details on this process.
  2. Call your local Women’s, Infants, and Children (WIC) program for a loaner breast pump for WIC NICU mothers.
  3. You can rent a hospital-grade breast pump or buy a personal breast pump at a rental station, baby store or online.
  4. Do not buy or borrow a “used” pump. Bacteria and viruses can be transmitted to your breast milk and to the baby.

How to Use Your Breast Pump

  1. Wash your hands.
  2. Make a seal with the breast shields over your nipples. Pumping should not be painful.
  3. Pump each breast for 15 minutes. It is quicker if you are able to pump both breasts at the same time.
  4. If breast feels full, massage breast, pump up to 30 minutes, and manually express 1-2 minutes after the last drop.
  5. Pump 8-12 times per day or every 2-3 hours. Pump before bedtime and set alarm to pump again in 5 hours.
  6. Only pump into the bottles that are given to you by the NICU.
  7. Place your baby’s hospital label on the bottle with the time and date that you pumped the breastmilk.
  8. Give your pumped breast milk to your nurse within 1 hour or place immediately in your refrigerator or freezer at home.
  9. Bring breast milk to the NICU in an insulated cooler with ice. If breast milk is frozen, it must remain frozen.
  10. Keep a log of pumping times, duration and amount of milk collected. Many phone apps are available.

Using a Medela Symphony Breast Pump

  1. Start on low and turn the center knob to your “Maximum Comfort Vacuum” setting. Never feel pain with pumping.
  2. Press the “on/off” button and then press the “droplet” button. The pump will automatically turn off in 15 minutes.
  3. Once you are pumping at least 20mL (from both breasts) during the last 3 pumpings OR by day 6, press the “on/off” button only (not the droplet button) and manually turn off the pump after 15 minutes.

Cleaning Pump Parts

  1. Clean pump parts after each use and sterilize daily using the CDC recommendations.
  2. Take all the piece parts apart, rinse with cold water, wash and rinse with warm water.
  3. Rinse thoroughly with warm water.
  4. Don’t clean the tubing unless breast milk gets into it. If water in tubing, connect to breast pump and pump until dry.
  5. After cleaning and sanitizing, place items on a clean surface to air dry. DO NOT DRY WITH DISH TOWEL.

Breast Milk Storage Guidelines

NICU StoragePreparation
4 hours at room temperature
3 days in the refrigerator
Thaw milk in refrigerator.
Use thawed milk within 24 hours.
Do not heat milk in microwave.
Do not re-freeze milk.
3 months in the freezer

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