Breastfeeding and expressing breastmilk

  • The RCH is committed to supporting breastfeeding as it has many benefits for mothers and babies, including improved bonding and boosting babies’ immune systems. Breastmilk is the perfect food for your baby, and although an admission to NICU may pose some challenges, we will support and encourage you on your breastfeeding journey.

    How to Express Your Milk

    If your baby is not able to feed from the breast, it is important to express frequently. This will maintain your milk supply and prevent complications. Aim for every 3 hours or approximately 8 times in 24 hours. You can record this in a pumping diary.

    Hand expressing is ideal in the first few days after birth, as it is gentle and effective. The first milk (colostrum) is high in protein, minerals, vitamins, white cells and antibodies. It provides vital immune protection and helps establish normal gut flora (good bacteria).

    Guide to hand expressing

    Around 48 hours after your baby is born you may be ready to swap to using a breast pump. Our midwives can help you with this. Breast pumps are kept in your baby’s room. There will be at least one pump between every 2 - 4 babies. If you can’t locate a breast pump please ask your child’s nurse or ward clerk and they will assist you to find one. Please note pumps are not available in the Overnight Accommodation area, including Care by Parent, on Level 2. You can hire hospital/grade (strong!) pumps from the Equipment Distribution Centre on B2 beside the Green lifts or in the Pharmacies on the Ground Floor.

    Expressing kits are stored in the cupboards in the ward milk room. These are for single parent use and can be washed and re-used for 24 hours, after which time they should be discarded. The green topped bottles in the ward formula room are exclusively for Expressed Breast Milk (EBM). A patient EMR barcode sticker is attached and the date and time of expressing is recorded. Please ask your bedside nurse or the ward clerk for the stickers. The EBM can then be placed in the ward milk room fridge which is temperature monitored according to the RCH Food Safety Policy. Please do not place EBM in any other fridge.

    We understand that it may be difficult for mothers to make milk when they are recovering from the birth of their baby, particularly if they have not been well themselves and/or the baby has to be moved to Butterfly ward due to illness. Stress and tiredness can also affect your supply. Please ask Butterfly midwives or nursing staff, or the staff at your maternity hospital, for support to improve your supply.

    Please ask for help from our midwives or bedside nurses to help you learn how to breastfeed your baby or express milk, either by hand or using a pump.

    If you have expressed too much breastmilk for one day’s feeds, you can store excess in the freezer in NICU. Each family is allocated 1 row in this freezer. Local families are encouraged to take excess milk home as storage space is limited. Rural families may take excess milk to the Central Formula Room to be stored in the freezer. The Central Formula Room can be found by taking the green or silver lifts to Level B2. Each bottle of EBM needs to be clearly labelled with a patient EMR barcode sticker and their ward, and the date and time it was expressed. Parents are requested to take their own EBM to the Central Formula Room, where they will be asked to sign it into the logbook and check on the volume that remains. Please deliver EBM during the opening hours of 8.00am – 5.30pm. EBM can remain in the ward milk room fridge until the following morning if the Central Formula Room has closed. 

    Ideally, deliver your EBM before 11.00am each day if it needs to be fortified and delivered back to your ward on the same day. Please remember to collect your EBM from the Central Formula Room when your child is discharged. Frozen EBM will be discarded two weeks after discharge if not collected or if no special arrangements have previously been discussed with the Central Formula Room supervisor.

    Meals are provided for breastfeeding mothers at RCH. Optimal nutrition will assist you to maintain a good breastmilk supply. The hospital provides two meals per day for mothers who are currently breastfeeding. When your baby is staying in Butterfly Ward, your bedside nurse can place the meal order electronically and you can collect lunch and dinner from the kitchen on level B2. Regular, vegetarian and religious observance diets can be accommodated. Information sheets with collection instructions are located in the ward Milk Room.

    The following links have additional information and support about breastfeeding and expressing
    Australian Breastfeeding Association: A community-based self-help group offering information, counselling, and support services on breastfeeding issues. 24-hour breastfeeding helpline 1800 686 268.
    RCH Kids Health Info fact sheet: Breastfeeding a baby in hospital.
    RCH Kids Health Info fact sheet: Breastfeeding a baby at The Royal Children's Hospital

    Raising Children Network - Newborns: breastfeeding & bottle-feeding