Pumping During Your Baby's NICU Stay

Pumping During Your Baby's NICU Stay

My Baby is in the NICU!

Once upon a time I was a NICU nurse. It was always a challenge to see a new mom struggle with sadness over being separated from her baby while also trying to establish a milk supply. Being separated can take its toll on parents and the baby. Get your rest, do as much skin to skin as possible when you are with your baby, pump, and ask for help if you need it!

Here are a few tips to help you establish a rockin’ milk supply while you wait for your sweet babe to join you at home.

How do I build my milk supply?

After giving birth, your body is ready to release your colostrum, the early milk. You’ve had milk since 16 weeks of pregnancy! Once your placenta is delivered estrogen and progesterone begin to drop, which causes an increase in prolactin. Prolactin is the hormone responsible for the production of breast milk.

If your baby is unable to breastfeed, it is important to start pumping as soon as possible after your baby’s birth. The recommendation is within 6 hours of birth. If you wait, it may be harder to develop your supply.

Most hospitals provide hospital grade electric pumps to use when a baby is in the NICU. If your hospital does not have a hospital grade pump, reach out to your insurance company. Most cover the cost of renting a hospital grade pump while your baby is in the NICU.

Ask your nurse for a pump, a pumping kit, storage bottles and labels to use during your hospital stay.


  • Wash your hands to keep germs from getting into your milk.

  • Use the Preemie Program setting and pump for 15 minutes. Use this setting until you are able to pump 20 ml or more per session. The preemie setting mimics an infant’s frequent suckling more so than the standard setting. This setting can help establish your milk supply when baby is not there to do so.

  • Once you pump 20ml or more you can switch to the Standard Program- from here you pump until your breasts are soft; each woman is different and requires a different amount of time to empty her breasts. It can take anywhere from 10 minutes to 60 minutes.

  • Listen to music when you pump, pump near your baby, or smell a shirt or blanket while you pump to help maintain your milk supply.

How much milk is enough?

Day 1-3: Drops per pumping session, up to 3 - 5 ml TOTAL for the day

Day 4-5: 25 – 30 ml per pumping session, at least 200 ml TOTAL for the day

Day 7-30: 45 ml per pumping session, at least 300 ml TOTAL for the day

Day 14: 45 – 60 ml per pumping session, at least 450 ml TOTAL for the day

3 – 4 wks: 60 – 120 ml per pumping session, 720 – 900 ml TOTAL for the day

*per pumping session includes the amount pumped from BOTH breasts.

How to increase your supply:

If you are not making enough milk for your baby you can try something called power pumping.

Power Pumping can help to increase supply if your volume is not keeping up with baby’s need.

  • Prepare for a normal pumping session,

  • Pump for 10-20 minutes.

  • Rest for 10 minutes

  • Pump 10 minutes

  • Rest 10 minutes

  • Pump for 10 minutes

  • Continue this cycle for 60 minutes once a day, for up to a few days.

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