NICU breastfeeding

Monday, March 26, 2012

I have done the NICU breastfeeding game a few times- each time I have learned a few things and gotten better at it. I have also been astounded really as to how much some lactation consultants and nurses do not know; lactation consultant and nurses who work in a level III NICU.

Here are somethings that I got to teach the NICU Lactation Consultants about:

1- Colostrum Oral Care. This is a big deal especially for infants not orally feeding. It helps protect them from lots of nasty bugs. It is also comforting to them.

2- Avoiding formula- if there ever is a baby who needs breastmilk it is a pre-term infant. A mother's milk changes for her baby's needs. Even for pre-term infants a mothers milk is highly specialized for the baby.

3- Pacifier Use. For a full term infant, pacifiers may cause nipple confusion. For preemies pacifiers can be very useful.

4- Nipple Shields- Again breastfeeding preemies is different than full term infants. Preemies often lack the fat pockets in their cheeks to get a good grip on a mother's nipple, the shield makes it easier to hold on to.

Here are some more outrageous things I have been told about breastfeeding- from NICU lactation consultants:

I have been told that I should not nurse my toddler and my infant from the same side.

I have been told that I cannot breast feed two babies at once.

I have been told that my baby will do better on formula

To say that I was stunned is an understatement. I am stunned and disappointed. What hope to mothers have to breastfeed their pre-term infants successfully if the people who are supposed to help them learn how to breastfeed don't know some key things about breastfeeding a preemie.

If I did not know how to do this on my own, because of previous experience, I doubt that I would have been successful. NICU lactation consultants and RNs should be the best of the best regarding breastfeeding education and support. NICU babies need breastmilk more than almost any other infant.


Sandra Kohlmann said...

I wasn't told that I could try nursing my pre-term NICU twins as soon as they were checked out and determined to be stable. As a result, I didn't try nursing until they were three and a half days old. They never latched. We had amazing NICU nurses, but a lack of support for breastfeeding and pumping. We also got mixed information regarding skin-to-skin time and the amount of time we could hold our babies. I was not prepared for the NICU and if I knew then what I know now, we would have had a VERY different experience.

Way to stand up for yourself and educate the nurses, rather than accepting what they have told you.

Megan@TrueDaughter said...

Good job! Lactation consultants often are a little uniformed. I actually had one tell me to not let my son play the game of snacking - I am an on demand nurser, and I just ignored her. I still cannot imagine what she hoped to accomplish. I say - let them nurse at will and get that good supply going!And the one who told you formula was better...WHHHHAAAA???

Anonymous said...

As a NICU nurse and breastfeeding counselor myself I am sad to hear about your experiance and the misinformation you received. Believe it or not nicu nurses or even maternity for that matter generally never have any breastfeeding education, we just kind of learn some things on the job. This is changing recently with the push for baby friendly hospitals, where all staff have to recive breastfeeding education. I just recently bacame a counsler and am amazed at how much there is to learn. Congratulations on making it through and breastfeeding.

Anonymous said...

I am a NICU lactation consultant in a large Level 3 nursery. Since working primarily in the NICU as a lactation consultant, we have initiated oral care with colostrum for all babies whose mothers are pumping. We provide ongoing lactation education to our medical and nursing staff. Our staff care for many sick babies and sometimes it gets so hectic that I think the nurses do not have alot of time to provide breastfeeding education and it is not because they do not think it is important. Learning to breastfeed can be a trying time for mothers and babies. I think we all learn something new each day...and some people teach and learn things better than others.

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