Breastfeeding in the Hospital: What to Expect
Are you a soon-to-be mom as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown? We say that with a wry grin, but it’s a proven tale that when a big storm comes through, a lockdown usually results in a baby boom, even on a small scale. Fortunately, except for visitation restrictions due to the pandemic, nothing has changed about how mothers bring their newborns into the world, and hospital protocol is business as usual.
If you’re a new mom — or it’s been a few years since your last — you might be wondering how those first 24 hours of breastfeeding actually works. We’ve put together a brief timeline to help ease your mind and help new mothers plan for breastfeeding in the hospital.
Skin-to-skin contact helps increase the milk supply
Hospitals in the United States have been practicing skin-to-skin contact as soon after birth as possible since the 1980s. For a healthy, full term infant, the baby will be placed on the mother’s chest and covered with a blanket. This practice has many benefits.
Skin-to-skin holding or kangaroo care is a wonderful way to welcome your baby into the world. Because the skin is the largest sensory organ in the body, the mother’s body keeps the baby warm, and often, that baby will have the suckling instinct right away. Skin-to-skin contact with your baby can help to increase the milk supply because it stimulates prolactin and oxytocin. Both of these hormones help your body to make and release breast milk.
For babies who are born prematurely or are sick at birth and have to be moved to Intensive Care, they may experience a delay, but skin-to-skin contact is still an integral part of the first 24 hours of breastfeeding. The infant’s mere presence on the mother’s body helps to initiate regular milk production, which requires regular pumping.
How often should I be pumping in the hospital?
It’s ideal that babies start nursing right away. But for the mom that’s separated from her baby, hospitals generally provide her with a hospital grade breast pump and give her instructions on how to pump. Experts recommend a minimum of eight times in 24 hours to pump in order to facilitate the establishment of a milk supply.
That’s a lot of pumping! And likely leaves some moms feeling like a veritable breastfeeding shop, but it’s imperative that the pumping schedule be kept up, both to relieve discomfort in the mother’s breasts and, more important, to help her baby be as healthy as possible. Of course, if a full term infant is born without issue, the baby will start nursing right away. But for mothers with sick babies, it’s extremely important that they keep to the breast pumping schedule.
Hospital grade breast pump rentals
Not all mothers will have their breast pump selected and ordered before the baby comes, especially if her baby arrives early. But hospitals maintain good quality basic breast pumps for moms to rent while convalescing. In most cases, a lactation specialist will walk a mom through the process of learning how to use the pump and even how to select her own personal pump to take home.
Just about every insurance company now provides every mom with a breast pump, and hospital personnel will help facilitate acquisitioning a breast pump for every mother. At many hospitals, they keep several brands of breast pump on hand, like the Spectra and Medela personal pumps, to show new mothers so they can make the best choice for their body and lifestyle.
Most insurance companies, including Aetna, UPMC, and TRICARE, cover a variety of pump brands, pumping essentials, and general breast pump supplies, which can be applied for and obtained through our website. When possible, we recommend ordering your breast pump sooner than later so you’re better prepared when your baby arrives.
Making the best breast pump selection
Every mother is different, and which breast pump best serves you will depend on a number of factors. We are always on hand to answer questions. But rest assured, during those first few pivotal hours, your hospital staff will be there to help you through the transition from pregnancy to birth.