Feeding your baby

One of our key team give you valuable information and tips on how best to feed your baby on the neonatal unit and when you take your baby home.

Ideally, during your antenatal appointments with your Midwife you will have a conversation about how you plan to feed your baby once they are born. For some women, their baby will be born after you’ve made the decision how to feed your baby, but for others who deliver early this may not be a choice they have made.

One thing we do know, your breastmilk is the best milk for your baby. It will have more fat, protein and sodium than it would have had if baby had been born on time. It will be ‘tailor-made’ for a premature baby. Breast milk is better than formula milk when babies are starting to have milk feeds because it is easier to digest and absorb. It also contains antibodies and other factors that help protect against infection, to which premature babies are especially vulnerable.

Breastfeeding/expressing is the one thing that you can do that no one else can do, and it is very important for your baby. It is like medicine for your baby.


We recommend you start expressing your breastmilk within 2 hours of birth as this will help stimulate your milk supply for the long term. On the Neonatal Unit, we are working towards the UNICEF Baby Friendly Initiative and follow their evidence based guidance. It is recommended women whose babies are on a Neonatal Unit express 8-10 times in 24 hours including once overnight. Expressing regularly will enable your body to produce more milk ready for when your baby can begin breastfeeding.

If your baby is not yet taking milk, or if you are producing more than is needed, we will freeze it for your baby to use later. It can be stored frozen for up to 3 months on the neonatal unit or for 6 months at home in a freezer at -18 degrees Celsius or below.

For more specific information on how our Neonatal Unit can support you with expressing and feeding your baby, please see leaflet below. In here, you will find information about;

  • Hand Expressing
  • Hospital Breast Pump
  • Breast Pumps for at home
  • Responsive Breastfeeding
  • Expressing Log
  • Suggested Apps

Please see the links below for further information;


Low Milk Supply

If you are struggling with a low milk supply, please ensure you try the following; staff can assist you with this well.

  • Are you expressing 8-10 times per day?
  • Do your timings of expressing work around your lifestyle?
    It is not recommended to leave gaps between expressions longer than 4 hours in the day and 6 hours at night
  • Do you use breast massage; have skin to skin with your baby/ near to your baby as much as possible?
    You can also look at photos and videos of your baby, also keep ‘your knitted squares’ close to you and continue swapping them between you and your baby. The scent of the squares can help stimulate your supply.
  • Do you have access to an electric breast pump at home and in the hospital and is the pump being used correctly?
  • Are you double pumping? This gives more stimulation and in turn you should get more milk.
  • Are you using the correct size breast shield?
    This is often something that gets disregarded. Please ask a member of staff to check as this could have a big influence on your milk supply.
  • Are your nipples sore, is there evidence of trauma?
  • Are you relaxed whilst pumping?
  • Is your supply gradually increasing every 24 hours?


Donor Breast Milk

Often, donor milk is recommended for premature babies in the early days or weeks if we do not have ‘enough’ of Mum’s own milk. It is very common for Mum’s of premature babies to have a lower milk supply if they are unwell themselves, have not been able to express as often or because of stress. Staff on the Neonatal Unit will be there to advise you accordingly if you are struggling with your breastmilk supply.

Over the years we have built up a good relationship with St George’s Neonatal Unit milk bank which is where we source most of our donor milk from. Below is some information from St George’s Milk Bank;
Donor milk is breast milk expressed and donated by another mother. The milk has been screened and pasteurised and stored in a freezer. It is the next best thing to your own milk. The milk bank at St George’s is hosted by the neonatal unit and meets guidance from the UK Association of Milk Banks (UKAMB) and the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE).


Storage and Transportation of Breast Milk

As soon as you have expressed your breast milk, transfer it to a sterile bottle and label it with your name, date and time of expressing. Do not fill the bottle above 100mls. If your refrigerator maintains a temperature of 2-4 degrees Celsius or less, you can store it in there but it must be used or frozen within 48 hours. If frozen, it can be frozen for 3 months on the neonatal unit or 6 months at home in a freezer at -18 degrees Celsius or lower. When transporting your expressed breast milk, whether refrigerated or frozen, place it in a cool bag with ice packs to ensure that the temperature of the milk does not increase.


Thawing breast milk

Frozen breast milk may be thawed at room temperature or in a refrigerator. If you thaw frozen breast milk at room temperature, ensure that it is placed in the refrigerator as soon as it is thawed, and always use breast milk within 24 hours of thawing. Do not use a microwave to thaw frozen breast milk or warm up fresh milk.


Bottle Feeding

If you choose to bottle feed your baby, staff with also be able to assist you with this. As mentioned above, the Neonatal Unit is working towards the UNICEF Baby Friendly accreditation.

Please see links below for information on responsive bottle feeding.