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Breastfeeding: While Your Baby Is Hospitalized



  • If your baby is born early or is ill and cannot breastfeed properly, you will need to pump your breasts regularly so you can keep producing breast milk.
  • Spend skin-to-skin time with your baby while in the hospital. Even if your baby is not able to breastfeed, this helps your baby link comfort and warmth to breastfeeding.
  • Start breastfeeding as soon and as often as your baby's medical condition permits. Ask for help from a lactation consultant.


If born early or ill, your baby may not be able to breastfeed properly. You will need to pump your breasts regularly so that you can keep producing breast milk and will be able to breastfeed when your baby is ready.

The amount of milk that your breasts can make and release is affected by your hormones, your emotions, your health, and your pumping routines. The following tips should help increase your milk supply so that you can provide enough breast milk for your baby.

  • Ask for help from a lactation consultant. Many hospitals have lactation experts on staff who can help. A lactation expert can help you adjust your plan as your baby's needs and ability to feed change.
  • Try to get a hospital-grade electric breast pump.

    A hospital-grade pump has a collection system that lets you collect milk from both breasts at the same time. This can save you time. Contact your healthcare provider or lactation consultant to ask where you can rent a pump.

  • Follow a pumping schedule that is like a healthy newborn's feeding schedule.

    This means you will need to pump every 2 to 3 hours. You will pump at least 8 to 10 times each day.

  • Pump each breast at least 10 minutes.

    Pumping each breast for 10 to 15 minutes is usually enough to drain your breasts well. However, some women need to pump longer. If milk is still flowing well after 10 minutes, pump another 5 minutes. Even if milk stops flowing before 10 minutes have passed, keep pumping for at least a full 10 minutes. If you pump both breasts at once, you not only save time but also may raise the prolactin level in your blood. Prolactin is the hormone that tells your body to make milk.

    You can increase the amount of milk you make by massaging and hand expressing more milk after a pumping session.

  • Relax.

    Relaxing can help your breasts release milk. Sit in a comfortable position and relax your entire body. Practice the relaxation exercises taught in childbirth classes. When you start pumping your breasts, think about your baby, look at your baby's picture, play soft music, or read a good book. If milk flow does not start after 5 minutes of pumping, stop. Focus on getting relaxed and then try pumping again in 5 to 10 minutes.

  • Massage your breasts.

    Gentle massage of your breasts before you start pumping can help start milk flow. Start at the chest wall and move toward the nipple. Use a circular motion about the size of a quarter.

  • Warm your breasts.

    Taking a warm bath or shower before pumping can improve the flow of milk. Putting warm washcloths on your breasts can also help your breasts start releasing milk.

  • Drink a lot of liquids.

    Drink an 8- to 12-ounce glass of water each time you sit down to pump.

  • Eat a variety of healthy foods.

    Try to eat fewer processed snacks such as cookies, crackers, cake, and candy. Instead, eat more fresh fruits and vegetables, whole-grain breads and cereals, nonfat dairy products, and other sources of protein. Keep taking your prenatal vitamins.

  • Keep track of the amount of milk you pump each time.

    You may get different amounts of milk each time you pump. It depends on the time of day and how long it has been since you last pumped. However, the total amount of milk you pump in 24 hours should steadily increase during the first 2 to 3 weeks of pumping.

    You should produce at least 20 ounces every 24 hours by 7 to 10 days after birth, even if your baby takes little milk now. By 2 weeks after delivery, a good milk supply for a single baby is about 24 ounces every 24 hours. Mothers of twins or triplets need to produce more milk. It is easier to produce plenty of milk from the start than to increase your milk supply later when your baby begins taking more.

    Even if your pumped volumes are lower than you want, don't give up. Often your milk production will get better once you can start breastfeeding your baby.

    Check your records to make sure that you pump at least 8 times each 24 hours and that the longest amount of time between pumping sessions is 4 hours once at night.

  • Start breastfeeding your baby as soon as you can.

    Spend skin-to-skin time with your baby while in the hospital. Even if your baby is not able to breastfeed, this helps your baby to link comfort and warmth to breastfeeding.

    Start breastfeeding as soon and as often as your baby's medical condition permits. Offer your breast to your baby during your hospital visits to help your baby learn to breastfeed.

    Always pump after breastfeeding to express any remaining milk. This will make sure that your breasts are emptied well and that you keep producing plenty of milk. Once your baby is breastfeeding at every feeding and gaining weight well, you can pump less often.

    You will probably need to keep pumping until your baby weighs at least 7 pounds and is a few weeks past his or her due date.

Developed by Change Healthcare.
Pediatric Advisor 2022.1 published by Change Healthcare.
Last modified: 2019-12-23
Last reviewed: 2019-12-16
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
© 2022 Change Healthcare LLC and/or one of its subsidiaries
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