12 Ways To Support A Woman Who Is Breastfeeding In The NICU

Ad failed to load

For many of us, breastfeeding can be a bit of a challenge. Milk production can be an issue, especially if you have insufficient glandular tissue. Your baby may have trouble latching on properly or the act of breastfeeding might be particularly painful for you. Maybe you're a survivor of sexual assault who has chosen to breastfeed, but you're struggling with past memories and triggers. Honestly, for as beautiful as breastfeeding is, it can be so difficult and exhausting and debilitating. It’s (arguably) even more challenging when your baby is born prematurely or sick and winds up spending time in the neonatal intensive care unit, or NICU. Babies in the NICU are frequently intubated, meaning they’ll be hooked up to machines that breathe for them and feed them and sustain them. And honestly, there’s nothing harder than seeing your baby inside an isolette and feeling completely powerless to help them.

As any good NICU nurse will tell you, (thankfully) there is plenty for you to do while you wait for baby to get stronger and healthier and less dependent on machines. One way is by pumping breastmilk for your baby while you wait for your breastfeeding opportunity to arrive. I remember, all too well, when my son was in NICU; his nurse would constantly reassure me that “every drop counts.” Even while I was desperate to produce more milk and barely coming up with a few milliliters, my son's nurse would still take my breast milk and mix it with his formula so that he would, at the very least, get some of the vitamins and other nutrients that are only found in breast milk. Not all moms have this kind of trouble, but even if you’re producing a lot, you can still use a hand if you’re a NICU mom that’s breastfeeding (especially because, chances are, you’re having to pump at least part of the time).

Pregnant mamas and new mamas should print this one out and hand it to their loved ones. Friends and family members of NICU moms should use these 12 ways to help out these struggling, powerful and steadfast mothers, because when my son was in the NICU and I was trying to properly breastfeed him, I was thankful for every second of support I received.

Ad failed to load

Wash Her Pumping Supplies


I developed a love/hate relationship with my pumping supplies. For a time, I viewed them as my gear, and I took some pride in washing them carefully while my son slept. Other times, I wanted to cry at the thought of having to wash them yet again. Be a dear and let a tired mom get some shut eye while you carefully wash these important supplies for her.

Bring Her Fresh, Breastfeeding-Friendly Clothes


Some moms go home daily while their baby is in NICU. Others, like myself, spend several days sleeping on uncomfortable hospital furniture to be next to our babies while they recover. That means little or no time doing laundry or picking out clothes or taking what would be a soothing shower. Good friends know to bring some fresh clothes and nursing bras for the NICU mom in their life.

Make Sure She Remembers To Eat...


NICU moms are notorious for forgetting to care for themselves. Honestly, it's an understandable oversight; you're so focused on your baby that you forget to focus on yourself. But as any breastfeeding mom knows, you need to remember to eat. Breastfeeding burns tons of calories which will leave any mother feeling drained. This is just one of many things breastfeeding moms moms need to remember to do, whether or not they’re in the NICU.

Ad failed to load

...Or Drop Off Some Bottled Waters And Healthy Snacks


You can always drop off some snacks in case she’s not interested in hitting up the hospital cafeteria. Granola bars, lactation cookies, cheese and crackers, and yogurt are (in my humble opinion) all fantastic options.

Take Her For A Breather Outside Of The NICU


Sometimes NICU life gets stressful. Actually, forget that: it’s always stressful. So honestly, even if the NICU mom  is adamant that she doesn't need or want a break, she can always use at least an hour or two outside the hospital to unwind and find neutral. Kill two birds with one stone and take her out for lunch, or maybe a walk in the park or a quick drive. Anything to get her mind off her stresses, if only for a moment.

Stay On Baby Watch For Her


If mama feels like going out on her own for a bit, you could also volunteer to stay by baby’s bedside so she feels more comfortable (if she is the sort that doesn’t want to leave their infant alone).

Ad failed to load

Bring Her Some Entertainment


Not much happens in the NICU on a good day (save for baby eating and sleeping). Drop off some books, magazines, or coloring books for the new mom to entertain herself with. Alternately, you can offer to let her use your video streaming passwords so she can catch up on her favorite TV shows.

Label Her Milk And Hand It Over To The Nurse


When you’re pumping in the NICU, you’ll have to close it up in special plastic containers and add a label with your baby’s name on it so the nurse can store it in the fridge or freezer for you. It gets old fast, so do this for the mom while she disconnects from her pump.

Remind Her That It’s Okay To Sleep


Don’t let a NICU mom stay up all the time because (trust me) she will not last. Gently remind her it’s okay to go home for a few hours and sleep. Sometimes we need to hear it from someone. Sometimes, getting "permission" to take care of ourselves, is all we need to not let the overwhelming mom-guilt take its toll.

Ad failed to load

If She’s Having Trouble, Seek Out A Lactation Specialist For Her


Sometimes a NICU mom won’t have it in her to ask for help. Be her advocate and see if you can get someone to assist her if she’s struggling.

And If She Requests Them, Get Her Some Galactagogues


Things like fenugreek and goat’s rue are supposed to help with milk production, though it’s not 100% proven. Still, if it’s not something that will harm her or baby and she wants to try it, place the orders and send them over to her.

Have Her Back If And/Or When She Decides She’s Done With Breastfeeding


Don’t be a judgmental jerk when or if she wants to stop breastfeeding. We all stop at different points for various, valid reasons. Basically, whatever’s right for her and her family is something you should support. Don’t add to a mama’s stress by making her feel badly about stopping earlier than you feel she should.

Ad failed to load

And Of Course, Let Her Know She’s Doing A Great Job


Because every parent needs to hear this, again and again and again.

Ad failed to load
Must Reads

8 Things That *Will* Go Wrong Every Time You Plan A Kid-Free Night

The last time my husband and I went out to dinner alone was… actually, I can’t remember. But I can count on one hand how many times I’ve seen a movie in a theater in the last year. Before we had children we used to go out all the time. But even with …
By Liza Wyles

These Photos Of North West Then & Now Will Take You On A Sweet Trip Down Memory Lane

When Kim Kardashian welcomed her first daughter, North West, with her husband, Kanye West, in 2013, her whole life was changed. The social media and reality TV star became a mom for the first time and her Instagram presence took a very adorable turn.…
By Casey Suglia

11 Photos You *Must* Take During The Last Days Of Your Pregnancy

During my first pregnancy, I took a photo each week to document my growing belly. I stopped around 36 weeks, though. I hated how I looked in those pictures, and didn't think I'd want to relive those moments. I was wrong. My second pregnancy was a dum…
By Steph Montgomery

This Is What It Means If Your Pregnancy Test Changes Overnight

The time between when a woman suspects she might be pregnant and when it is confirmed for sure is the longest of her life. Regardless of whether you are hoping for a positive or a negative result, the odds are good that you are sweating bullets when …
By Shannon Evans

6 Red Flags To Definitely Look Out For After Your Baby Falls

The first time my infant son tried to take a few steps, he tumbled and bumped his head on the coffee table. My blood turned to ice in my veins and I froze. There truly isn't anything quite like the feeling a parent gets when their little one gets hur…
By Sarah Bunton

These 9 Instant Pot Recipes Will Make Even The Pickiest Eater Happy At The Table

Like any parent, I've had my share of parenting hits and misses, but one of my favorite "wins" is my daughter's diverse palate. I don't even know if I can take credit for it, but I would like to think I had something to do with her love for lentils, …
By Caroline Shannon-Karasik

Turns Out, Kim Kardashian's Favorite Mom Products Look A Lot Like Your Own Faves

Being a mom is really hard work, especially for the first few months, and Kim Kardashian West is no different in that regard. Now the mother of three, Kardashian says that there are a few products she just can't live without when it comes to raising …
By Abi Berwager Schreier

Soda Might Hurt Your Fertility, Study Says, & Here's What You Can Do

Who doesn't love sugary drinks? I stopped drinking soda years ago, but I still love gulping down those fancy Starbucks coffee beverages. I don't have a big sweet tooth, but I am a sucker for sugar-sweetened beverages every now-and-then. Turns out, th…
By Annamarya Scaccia

10 Things No One Tells You About Having A Baby In Your 30s

If you're like me, you evaluate the pros and cons of any major life decision. When my husband and I were considering starting a family, I thought about my career, education, and financial stability. I wanted to know how a pregnancy and childbirth wou…
By Steph Montgomery

This Woman Thought She Had An Eyelash Stuck In Her Eye. Then It Moved.

I'm not a person who is easily icked out. As a kid, I collected bugs and thought I was going to be an entomologist and asked Santa Claus for ant farms and nets to catch bees. I'm still super curious about anything that flies and crawls, which might s…
By Karen Fratti

5 Red Flags Your Toddler Isn't Eating Enough

Toddlers are notoriously picky eaters, at least in my experience. You offer mashed potatoes, they want french fries. You give them crackers, they scream for chips. It's frustrating, to be sure, but it's usually their way of vying for independence. It…
By Candace Ganger

11 Ways Your Pregnancy Will Be Different If You Have A Boy Vs A Girl

If you've been pregnant before, you might start comparing your previous pregnancies to that of your current pregnancy. A lot of things can change from pregnancy to pregnancy, based on a whole host of different factors (including how well you remember…
By Lauren Schumacker

35 Moms Share The Most Disgusting Things Their Husbands Do

I'm a human being who revels in challenges. I like when people present me with one, especially if they don't think I can meet or succeed it, and I like taking a challenge on, especially if it's unexpected. So when I aimed to uncover the most disgusti…
By Jamie Kenney

How Having Kids In Your 20s Affects You Later In Life

For parents, like myself, who had kids in their 20s, there are a number of questions that come to mind. When you're deciding what your future will look like, you'll likely consider what this means for your health, career, and more down the line. Thin…
By Tessa Shull

12 Moms Share How They Stay Healthy During Flu Season

Unfortunately, we're in the middle of the roughest flu seasons in recent memory. And we’re not totally out of the woods, either. People around the country are still getting the flu, and, sadly, some of them are having to be hospitalized due to flu-re…
By Priscilla Blossom

8 "Mistakes" I'm Glad I Made During My First Pregnancy

As an adult, I've learned you never really stop hating being told what to do. When I was pregnant I was getting instructions at every turn, from doctors, relatives, and complete strangers on the subway. I would nod and smile but then go about making …
By Liza Wyles

Study: Drinking Two Glasses Of Wine A Day Is Good For Your Mind — Here's Why

There’s more scientific proof that a daily drink or two isn't necessarily a bad thing and could have a place in an overall healthy lifestyle. A new study out of the University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) in New York found that — in mice, at le…
By Tiffany Thomas

Research Says Eating Carbs Can Lead To A Healthy Pregnancy, So Bring On The Pasta

In the world of me, no food is better than bread. I know it's supposed to be pretty terrible for you, high in calories, low in protein, and full of that modern-day demon, gluten... but guys, it's really yummy. Especially warm out of the oven, when th…
By Jen McGuire

These Photos Of Prince George Then & Now Will Give You Serious Baby Fever

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are expecting their third child in Spring 2018. With all of the excitement surrounding the new baby, it's easy to forget all of the good times that have already passed. The couple's eldest is already well into the sc…
By Azure Hall

This Is, Hands Down, The *Grossest* Thing Babies Do Inside The Womb

Your baby's life in the womb may be safe and warm, but it's also kind of grody. Seriously, the whole process of growing into a human being includes more than a few icky moments along the way. But this is the grossest thing babies do inside the womb b…
By Lindsay E. Mack