Maintaining Your Milk Supply While Baby Is Hospitalized

When your baby is admitted to The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, you want to do everything you possible to maintain your milk supply for your baby. You want to know your baby will continue to receive your milk during the Hospital stay and after you and your baby return home. This may mean you will need to use a breast pump at times.

Whenever your child is not eating — whether because of illness, surgery, treatments or tests — you will need to pump your milk.

If your baby is allowed to eat while in the Hospital, you should be able to breastfeed when you are here. If you cannot be at the Hospital around the clock, you will need to pump at home to ensure you do not lose your milk supply. Your pumped milk can be fed to your baby when you are not at the Hospital.

If your baby has started breastfeeding before entering the Hospital, you should start a pumping schedule that matches your baby's usual feeding schedule. For instance, if your baby normally breastfeeds every 2-3 hours during the day and sleeps six hours at night; you should pump every 2-3 hours during the day with a 6-hour break at night.

If you need to increase your milk supply, you can pump more often.

Getting started

You may have never used a breast pump before your baby was admitted to the Hospital. Or you may have had a bad experience pumping with a poor quality pump. You will be happy to know that pumping with a hospital-quality electric breast pump can be an easy, pain-free experience.

Your child's nurse will give you a double pump kit so you can pump both breasts at the same time. The same kit can also be used for single pumping if you prefer, but remember that double pumping is a great time-saver and helps you make more milk.

The pump kit you receive will work with any of the Medela Symphony® electric pumps in the Hospital. You can pump at your baby's bedside or in any of the private pumping rooms located around the Hospital. For a list of locations and directions, see pump rooms.

For a step-by-step guide to pumping at the Hospital; information about how to collect, store and transport you milk; and details about sterilizing your pump kit, see pumping and storing your milk.

Tips for pumping

Stress can interfere with your milk let down. If your child is in the Hospital, you are certainly going to feel some stress and uncertainty. Here are some techniques that can help your pumping experience be more productive.

  • Think about your baby, look at photos, think happy thoughts and RELAX!
  • Drink plenty of fluids (same as if you were at home breastfeeding), and make sure you are eating three healthy meals a day.
  • High-calorie, healthy snacks are good if you can not fit in scheduled meals. Try dried fruits, nuts, cheese and crackers, granola bars, peanut butter and dried cereal.
  • If you are having problems getting your milk to let-down or producing milk, try putting warm washcloths on your breasts and massaging both breasts for five minutes before pumping.
  • You can work on relaxation techniques to help the milk flow. Try a warm drink, listening to music, watching TV or reading.
  • Try not to focus on pumping or on the amount of milk in the collection bottles.
  • If your supply is low, pumping more often will help to increase it. You can pump every 2-3 hours during the day and at least once at night. If your supply is low, you may consider renting a hospital-grade pump to help completely empty your breasts and increase your milk supply.
  • It may take several days for your supply to increase. Don’t be discouraged; it will happen.

Pumping at home

If you will be spending a lot of time at home pumping, you will probably want to rent an electric pump to keep at home. An electric pump works better than a small hand or battery-powered pump. We recommend electric pumps for maintaining your milk supply if your baby is not breastfeeding yet.

You can rent a breast pump from Children's Hospital, from the manufacturer or retail stores. Be sure to check with your insurance company; it may cover the cost of a pump while your child is in the Hospital. For details, see pump rentals.

Reviewed by Diane L. Spatz, PhD, RN-BC, FAAN on July 01, 2012