Breastfeeding a baby with a cardiac condition
Whether your baby is able to start breastfeeding or not, it is very important that you start expressing as soon as possible after your baby is born to establish your milk supply. It is best if you can start expressing within the first hour after birthing.
You will need to express at least 8 times each day to maintain your milk supply until your baby is breastfeeding all feeds and gaining weight.
Will my baby’s heart condition affect breastfeeding?
There are many different types of congenital heart conditions in babies. Some babies may not be able to breastfeed until after they have had surgery. Please speak to your baby’s doctor about when your baby will be able to breastfeed. Some heart conditions can make babies get tired quickly, while other babies may be too unwell to feed properly. These babies are more likely to need an extra top-up of breastmilk after a breastfeed or may need to be fed by a nasogastric tube to help them grow.
Will I need to buy or hire a breast pump?
If you plan to be away from the hospital for more than 6 hours at a time, you will need to be able to express. You may prefer to hand express, otherwise buying or hiring a breast pump may be a good idea. Speak to your midwife or Lactation Consultant about which breast pump may be suitable for you.
Electric breast pumps are available for you to use at most maternity hospitals. Ask your midwife to help you with expressing soon after your baby is born.
Will I be able to stay with my baby in hospital if my baby is in an Intensive Care or Special Care Nursery?
You will likely be discharged from the maternity hospital when you are postnatally well. This may be before your baby is ready for discharge or transfer to Queensland Children’s Hospital (QCH). Ask your midwife about parent visiting hours.
Will there be someone to help me with breastfeeding and expressing while my baby is in the Intensive Care or Special Care Nursery?
The nurses and midwives caring for your baby will be able to help you with breastfeeding. If they have any worries, many hospitals are able to arrange for a Lactation Consultant to see you.
Will there be breast pumps for me to use if my baby is transferred to the Queensland Children’s Hospital (QCH)?
All areas at QCH have hospital grade electric breast pumps that you can use. The QCH will provide you with a new one-day breast pump kit each day. In the Paediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU) there is an ‘Expressing Room’ for you to use or you are welcome to wheel a breast pump to your baby’s room to express at your baby’s bedside.
Will I be able to stay with my baby in hospital?
- While your baby is in PICU there are a limited number of overnight accommodation beds available for you within the hospital. Please discuss accommodation with the Social Worker.
- While your baby is staying on the Cardiac Ward 10B there is a parent bed available next to each cot. Please be aware that the Close Observation area on Ward 10B can be very busy and noisy. We encourage you to stay with your baby, especially when your baby is starting to breastfeed.
Will there be someone to help me with expressing while in hospital?
The nurses in PICU may be able to help you or will arrange for you to be seen by a Lactation Consultant.
Ward 10B also has a Speech Pathologist who is able to help establish breastfeeding and bottlefeeding. The Lactation Consultant and the Speech Pathologist often work together to help with breastfeeding. Before you try to breastfeed your baby after surgery, please check with the medical or nursing staff whether your baby needs to be seen by the Speech Pathologist or Lactation Consultant first.
It is important to express breast milk to keep up your supply if your baby is too unwell to breastfeed, or if they need to fast before surgery. Your milk supply works on a supply and demand basis, which means that if the milk is removed then your body will replace it.
When you are very tired and stressed as a breastfeeding mum, you may find it harder to ‘let-down’ your breast milk or to establish a good flow. Before you express, try these to boost your pumping efforts:
- Cuddle your baby (skin-to-skin, if possible) or sit close to them, smelling their scent.
- Apply warmth to your breasts with a heat pack or shower, and massage your breasts in order to make the breast milk flow.
- When you are not near your baby, it may help to look at photos or videos of your baby, or smell your ‘cloth heart’. These are fabric hearts placed on the chests of mothers and babies to take in their scent and then swapped so mother and baby are left with each other’s scented heart.
My baby will be a few months old before having surgery. Is there anything I should do to prepare before we come into hospital?
If your baby’s hospital admission has been arranged ahead of time, it may be helpful to express extra breast milk for them a few times a day as you are getting ready to come to hospital. Many mothers find their milk supply drops when their baby is in hospital, so having an extra supply in your freezer may be very helpful. Even if your baby is still breastfeeding while they are in hospital, if they are not feeding as well as normal then it may be a good idea to express a few times a day to boost your milk supply.
If you bring some extra frozen breast milk to hospital with you and you are going straight to the operating theatre, ask the nurse to phone the Formula Room on phone extension 1771 and a Nutrition Assistant will come and take the milk to store in the freezer on Level 9. If you need to express breast milk while your baby is in surgery, there is an expressing area in 4C (Level 4) with a fridge to store your breast milk. Please ask the Administration Officer for some ID stickers to place on the expressed milk.
Lactation Service, Division of Medicine
Level 9, Queensland Children’s Hospital
501 Stanley Street, South Brisbane
t: 07 3068 1807
t: 07 3068 1111 (general enquiries)
In an emergency, always call 000.
If it’s not an emergency but you have any concerns, contact 13 Health (13 43 2584). Qualified staff will give you advice on who to talk to and how quickly you should do it. You can phone 24 hours a day, seven days a week.