Specifics about the Hospital Stay
hospitalization or surgery is recommended, inquire as to whether the
hospital has a specific policy regarding breastfeeding mothers and
babies. This information is probably available through the hospital's
lactation consultant and/or patient liaison. Some hospital policies
allow for the baby to stay with the mother night and day as long as
there is a third party to care for the baby. If having the baby with
you 24 hours a day is not a possibility, perhaps frequent visits will
be. Some hospitals are willing to make exceptions when special requests
are made. Don't be afraid to make such a request if your situation
warrants it. Important questions to ask include:
- Would arranging for a room in another area of the hospital such as
the pediatrics or maternity floor make it permissable for the baby to
stay with you?
- If rooming-in is not possible, can the baby be brought to you for feedings and how often during the day and night?
- If the baby cannot be brought to your room, would you be allowed to nurse in another part of the hospital?
If You Will Have to Miss Nursing Sessions
your hospital stay will require you to miss any feedings, pumping your
breasts as often as your baby would regularly be nursing will help keep
you comfortable, lessen your risks for engorgement and breast
infection, and maintain your supply. Preferably, you should have access
to a hospital-grade electric pump that will allow for double pumping.
This will lessen the time needed to pump and perhaps maintain your
supply more effectively. Some questions to ask related to pumping
- Will the hospital provide such a pump or would you need to make arrangements for one yourself?
- If you are unable to express your milk by yourself due to
pain, lack of strength, etc., will there be a nurse who is
knowledgeable about how to use the pump who would be willing to help
Necessary Drugs and Their Effects on Breastfeeding
Most drugs are compatible with breastfeeding. Drugs used to give
general anesthesia do not remain in a mother's system or affect her
milk. If you must undergo anesthesia, you can breastfeed as soon as you
are alert enough to handle your baby. Pain medications can be chosen
which are compatible with breastfeeding as well. If a particular drug
is contraindicated during lactation, most always a suitable alternative
can be found. You may have to implore or even insist that your doctor
prescribe only those medications that are compatible with
breastfeeding. Ask for those drugs used during and following a Cesarean
Could my illness be dangerous to my baby if I continue breastfeeding?
In most situations, fear of transmitting an illness via breastfeeding
or breastmilk is unwarranted. Most likely your baby has already been
exposed to the illness prior to your symptoms appearing. And antibodies
which your body is continually manufacturing to help you fight off your
illness will be passed onto your baby via your milk, affording the baby
extra protection. Only severe illnesses in the acute stage or certain
treatments may require temporary or permanent weaning. Furthermore,
continuing to breastfeed may help ease your mind which will prevent
added worry and allow for better rest. Uninterrupted breastfeeding will
also help prevent any possible physical and emotional traumas for both
you and your baby.
Will my baby be at risk for "picking something up" if he stays with me or visits me in the hospital?
This risk is extremely minimal especially if you are in a private room
of the hospital. And, again, any illness that you are exposed to will
initiate the manufacture of antibodies which will be passed onto your
baby. You also can lessen this risk by limiting the hospital staff's
handling of your baby and carefully washing your hands prior to
breastfeeding and holding your baby.
How should my baby be fed while I am at the hospital or unable to breastfeed?
If your baby is less than 3-4 weeks old, it is best that he/she be fed
any supplemental feedings with an alternative feeding device to the
bottle. This will help prevent the risk of nipple confusion. Other such devices include: a nursing supplementer attached to the finger (SNS), a soft, flexible medicinal cup, a feeding syringe, a medicine dropper, or a spoon.
If your baby is older than 4-6 weeks of age, then a bottle may be used.
Try to use a bottle with a newborn nipple which will encourage the baby
to suckle vigorously.
If your baby is older than 4-6 months of age, he/she may be able to take supplemental expressed milk or formula from a cup.
What if my baby will not take a bottle?
If your baby is older than 4-6 months of age, supplemental feedings may
be given with a cup. Following are some tips for getting the younger
baby to accept a bottle:
- Choose a newborn size nipple.
- Use a silicone rather than a rubber nipple to avoid an unpleasant odor or taste.
- Warm the nipple under running water before offering the bottle to the baby.
- Make sure the milk is not too warm and not too cold. If when
holding the bottle in your palm, it feels warm to the touch, it is most
likely too warm. If it feels cool to the touch, it is most likely not
warm enough. If you can feel no difference in the temperature of the
bottle and your palm, the milk is probably at the right temperature.
- Most babies will accept expressed breastmilk more readily than formula.
- Offer the bottle while holding the baby with his back to your
chest so that he is facing outward, rather than trying to cradle him.
- Move with the baby - rock, sway, bounce, walk, walk in circles, etc. as you offer the bottle.
- Place the baby in a swing, bouncy seat, infant/car seat, etc. and offer the bottle.
- Place an article of mother's clothing up near the baby while offering the bottle.
- Lightly tickle the baby's lower lip with the nipple and allow
him to pull it in his mouth rather than trying to force the nipple in.
- Offer the bottle when the baby is already sleepy or just
waking up (but not fully awake) or once the baby is already asleep.
Many babies will instinctively suckle at these times.
Most babies will accept a bottle with time and persistence. Try not to
allow feeding time to become associated with unpleasantness. Offer the
bottle for no more than 10 minutes at a time. If the baby is still
refusing the bottle and becoming more upset, it's best to back off and
try again later. Remember that if the baby will not take supplemental
feedings in this way, an alternative device may also be used (see
Written by Becky Flora, IBCLC on May 16, 1999
Last revision: January 7, 2000
La Leche League's, "The Breastfeeding Answer Book" (1997) by Nancy Mohrbacher, IBCLC and Julie Stock, BA, IBCLC