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Breastfeeding and pumping

The evidence from research is very clear: breastmilk is best for babies! This is true for all babies but particularly for premature or sick babies.

In the NICU, breastmilk represents more than just food. It is medicine that protects your baby from infection, reduces the severity of illness if they should become sick, and promotes healing, growth and development within your baby that will last a lifetime. In fact, at Sunnybrook, we value breastmilk so much that we also have adopted a donor milk program that can be used to bridge your supply until you are producing enough.

Most premature babies, especially ones born before 35 weeks, aren't ready to breastfeed all the time, if at all. That is why we encourage moms to start right away at producing breast milk.

You will typically begin by hand expressing as soon as possible after your baby is born, ideally within an hour. You may only get a few drops, but those few drops of colostrum will act as a wonderful medicine for your baby. After a few sessions of hand expressing, you will be shown how to use a breast pump. There are several breast pumps available in the unit for you to use. While your baby is with us you will be also given a breast pump to use at home free of charge when you bring in a valid credit card for a security hold. After discharge or transfer you can continue to rent a pump for home use through our Breastfeeding Clinic.

We will also give you kits that you can use with your pump. These kits can be cleaned in our special dishwasher in the unit pump room, or can be cleaned at home.  Ask a breastfeeding resource nurse for instructions on how to clean your kits; it is very important that instructions are followed carefully to keep your breastmilk safe for your baby.

Please note that we have limited space for storing frozen breastmilk, so we ask you to make arrangements before discharge to take frozen milk home.

When or if you are ready to start breastfeeding, please know that it often takes a while to get the hang of it. Breastfeeding is natural but doesn't always come naturally! Both you and your baby are learning. Remember that we are here to help.

Breastfeeding Resource Nurses work in the unit and can meet with you in your baby's room. You can ask your baby's nurse to call or you can call directly at 416-480-6100 ext. 87814. Their office is located just outside the parent access doors, at the front of the unit — feel free to just drop in. No appoint­ment necessary! If a breastfeeding resource nurse is not available many of our nurses are very knowledgeable about breastfeeding and can offer help.

When your baby is discharged from Sunnybrook you may still use the services of the Breastfeeding Clinic any time you need. The clinic does not accept walk-in visits; please phone 416-480-5900 to arrange an appointment.