Pumping for Preemies: 6 Things You Need to Know

I am desperately trying to pump for my two surviving preemie triplets who were born at 29 weeks. I was pumping eight times a day and only getting a total of eight ounces. After getting extremely discouraged, I've dropped down to expressing only six times a day. I have four other children at home so getting the rest I need is difficult. How can I make breastfeeding work?


Debbi Donovan

Debbi Donovan is a Board Certified Lactation Consultant, as well as a retired La Leche League Leader. For more than a decade, Debbi... Read more

I'm very sorry to hear of your loss. How wonderful that you want to provide your milk for your two babies.

Being born prematurely puts your little ones at an increased risk, and even relatively small amounts of breast milk can play a crucial role in your babies' health and development.

It is understandable that this must be an extremely stressful time for you and your family. With the grief you are experiencing due to the premature birth of your triplets and the loss of a baby, I'm sure it's very difficult for you and your family right now.

1. Express your milk regularly. Until your babies are ready to be put to breast, it is very important to continue expressing your milk on a regular basis. Have a goal of expressing your milk at least eight times each day. (This is the minimum number of daily feeds your newborns will need.) This, along with getting your babies to breast as soon as possible, are the best ways for you to protect your milk supply.

2. A short pumping session is better than none. There will be times, before your babies go to breast, that it will prove impossible to fit in a full pumping session. Even a shortened session is better than none at all. It is important for you to know that it is the regular breast "drainage" that drives milk production. The more milk that has been removed during a feed, the quicker the breast refills. (Hartmann & Daly, 1995)

3. Choose the right breast pump. I assume you are using a hospital-grade electric breastpump with double-pump kit. The breastpump you select is very important when you are working to maintain an adequate milk supply for your babies.

4. Rest. Allow yourself at least one good four- to five-hour stretch of sleep at night without expressing your milk. Also try to fit in a time to nap, or at least rest, each day. I do understand that getting the rest you need can be quite challenging when you already have four children at home, but without proper rest it will be impossible for you to continue.

5. Stay positive. While pumping, concentrate on how valuable your milk is to your babies, rather than the amount you are able to obtain at a session. With continued and regular expression you will be help to preserve your milk supply until your babies begin suckling. Even small quantities of your milk are so valuable to your babies' good health.

6. Get the support you need. I hope you will be able to enlist the help of family and friends in the weeks that follow. You really need their support at this time, so please don't refuse any of their offers to help you and your family out.

My best wishes in mothering!

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