NICU registered dieticians and lactation consultants work closely with an infant’s care team to ensure he or she is getting the proper nutrition for growth and development. Many babies in the NICU cannot be fed by mouth due to their health issues. Babies who are too small or sick to nurse, or who cannot tolerate breast milk, are fed through an IV placed in their arm, leg or belly button. Parenteral nutrition, containing the fats, sugars and proteins infants need, is the fluid babies receive through an IV.

Although nursing still may not be possible, breast milk is best and contains vital nutrients. Once a baby is ready, pumped breast milk may be swabbed into the babies’ mouth for absorption or a soft feeding tube may be placed in the nose or mouth. Lactation consultants are always available to guide parents on pumping, breastfeeding, and alternative feeding options.

Occasionally, a mother’s own breast milk cannot be used and human donor milk is an option to consider. Connecticut Children’s donor milk program – the first of its kind in New England – provides banked human breast milk to premature babies in accordance with the health and safety standards of the Human Milk Banking Association of North America. Parental consent is needed for a baby to receive human donor milk and our lactation consultants can help guide that decision.