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Your question:

How do I feed when separated from baby after birth?

Expert’s answer:

Occasionally, for medical reasons, mum and baby may have to be cared for separately in the first hours or days after birth. Breastmilk is important for ill and premature babies, so giving your baby your expressed breastmilk is important.

You may not be able to feed your baby at your breast immediately, instead you can express your milk for your baby. You can begin to hand express your milk in the first few days and then progress to using a hospital grade double electric breast pump from about day 3, when your body starts to make more milk. Start to hand express your breastsmilk ideally within the first few hours after your baby’s birth. Once you have started, it is advised to express at least 8-10 times every 24 hour. This is often how a newborn actually breastfeeds.

Some mothers are unwell after birth and need specialist care themselves. Your nurse or midwife will assist you with hand expression as soon as you feel well enough. The first milk you produce is called colostrum. It forms in your breasts when you are pregnant. It is yellow in colour instead of white. It is full of important nutrients and antibodies for your baby. Sometimes it is called ‘liquid gold’ because of its colour and importance. Every drop of colostrum is precious for your baby. Starting breast massage and expressing as soon as possible after birth is important to help you produce colostrum

Your nurse or midwife will assist and support you to express your breastmilk. You can express at your bedside or in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). It may take a few times of expressing before you produce milk. Your baby’s tummy is tiny and every drop of breastmilk matters. If you have any questions or difficulties, please ask your nurse or midwife so they can help you.

When your baby is well enough to feed the colostrums may be given to your baby through a tube or teat initially until your baby is able to feed from your breast.

Holding your baby in skin to skin contact can also help

  • Increase your levels of oxytocin a hormone which releases your breastmilk
  • It stimulates your milk production and
  • Develops your baby’s feeding and sucking instincts.

Your baby’s nurse or midwife will help you position and hold your baby safely in skin to skin contact when your baby is well enough to do so.   You will find information on skin-to-skin contact for premature and ill babies here Can I have skin-to-skin contact with my premature or ill baby?

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