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Premature birth

How long did your milk take to let down after premature birth?

20 replies

BellaTheDarkOverlord · 08/04/2023 21:30

Hi all

I had a spontaneous birth last week at 29 weeks. Suddenly went into contractions at home, birth 7 hours later to a 3.1lb baby. She's doing great but being kept in neonatal for up to 8 weeks. They said she can't feed yet due to her size and needs to be on breast milk by tube to get stomach. She's having donor milk by the tube.

I have help from the breast feeding consultants to try get breast milk going. I've never done this before and didn't intend to breast feed.

I wonder what others experience was of when their milk started the "let down" stage. It's currently in the stage of coming out in small drops that yesterday started going white so I think milk is there. But it's not coming out properly so I can't collect it unless in small drops in a syringe and that's with proper forcing it out. I want to get to the stage where I'm filling up the bottles they gave me. Hospital gave me a loan of a Medela electric pump but that doesn't bring on the let down.

Getting a bit deflated as I can't give her my milk yet. It's been 11 days since I started and I express by hand 10 times a day. Just worried it'll never happen.

OP posts:
Aliceinwonderland5 · 08/04/2023 21:52

Mine came in 3 days after birth but I had got to 32 weeks. I think if its turning white that's a really good sign as mine definitely got more and more after that happened and now 4 weeks later I get about 900ml a day. It didn't start that way though and at first I got drops like you, then about 10ml a session, then it increased by the day.
Keep trying with the pump now that it's turned white it might really help. I pump 8 to 9 times a day with once overnight at 3am. I've always got the most from the 3am session.
Don't get deflated, you're doing your best and your baby is being well looked after.

Aliceinwonderland5 · 08/04/2023 22:08

Just to add my twins were 3lbs2oz and 4 weeks later are 4lb and have started taking a mixture of bottle feeds and tube feeds now. They still get tired with bottles but it's getting better, we still tube feed to give them a rest but offer the bottle every time they are awake at feeding time. Just thought that might also help you to know.

Wasywasydoodah · 08/04/2023 22:18

Its hard. My slightly prem Dd was 35 weeks, and my milk came in after 7 days. I agree, if it’s turned white that’s a good sign. I found hand expressing then using the pump after was best. Also, I found hand expressing where i squeezed then massaged forward was best (honestly, like milking an animal if you’ve ever done that. Oddly, milking a goat was something my secondary school taught us all). The standard instructions just to squeeze didn’t work at all.

Then, after a bit of a late start, I soon began to produce way too much and kept going for ages because it was so easy.

Try not to stress if it doesn’t work. It’s incredibly difficult with all the worry and hospital stuff. Uou can only do what you can do

BellaTheDarkOverlord · 08/04/2023 23:25

@Aliceinwonderland5 @Wasywasydoodah Thank you both! It's helpful to know now it's changed colour I might be getting somewhere! It's so hard isn't it when they are premature. I really didn't expect to be doing all this so soon! I'll keep going and try use the pump too in the night. Hopefully my let down will happen soon. The breast feeding consultant said her record was 9 days of having no milk coming from a mother. I've already beaten that I think 😅Ill keep persevering and hopefully it happens.

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DarlingG · 08/04/2023 23:33

Hope you and baby are doing okay, must have been so scary! I have no experience of having a premature birth but like you I didn’t plan to breastfeed last time and I ended up leaking milk through my nightie one night when my baby was crying. It’s crazy how much more it seems to come out during the night compared to during the day! I’m due my second and now planning to try expressing for some bottles this time (still no breastfeeding though) but I didn’t know what I was doing last time and just abandoned it. Definitely keep going with the expressing/pumping, you 100% will get there

BellaTheDarkOverlord · 09/04/2023 09:04

@DarlingG Thanks! I was up at 2am trying to get milk out but my breasts just feel soft not engorged at all. I know if baby was with me it might encourage them but she's not with me. I try using videos and have a little blanket square with her smell on (we swap it when we visit her) but neither seem to stimulate my breasts. They are hard to trick 😅I've never leaked before but looking forward to the day!

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CremeEggComa · 09/04/2023 09:09


28 weeks 6 days here and it took me five days. I was in the HDU and baby in NICU so I didn't see them for six days other than on video clips. It is really tough but I just kept pumping, every three hours during the day and every four hours at night.

BellaTheDarkOverlord · 09/04/2023 13:44

@CremeEggComa Thanks x Sorry you went through that. Did you use a hand pump or electric? The electric I'm using doesn't seem to pull much through but I get alot more droplets when hand expressing it.

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NewNovember · 09/04/2023 13:50

Are you pumping every 2 hours and at least once in the night so 8-10 times a day.

theotherfossilsister · 09/04/2023 14:06

I'm afraid mine took ages and I never established a full supply, however there were a lot of other factors at play as well. I remember crying in the milking room in neonatal. I'd say my supply was best around eight weeks, although by the end of week two I was making half of my son's milk.

It's really hard. I have a spare Elvie given to me by someone off Mumsnet if you'd like it?

BellaTheDarkOverlord · 09/04/2023 14:42

@NewNovember @theotherfossilsister Thanks for your advice. My SIL has a manual pump that she said she'd lend me if needed which she doesn't use so I could try that. I had a lot of factors against me too but hoping that I can still get some milk out. I got some big drops out this afternoon but it doesn't go to a flow at all even with pumping with electric. I might try the manual pump see if that helps.

Think I'm expressing by hand every 3-4 hours but between visiting DD at neonatal it's difficult to find time. I need to get better at doing it every 2 hours and make sure to do it through the night. I tried it last night around 3am but nothing much came out. Like right now I won't be able to for like 5 hours as we're at MILs for dinner and I am definitely not comfortable doing it here. Love PILS but all family here and they are all nosey.

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theotherfossilsister · 09/04/2023 14:53

It's so hard. Can you pump next t

theotherfossilsister · 09/04/2023 14:55

It's so hard. Can you pump next to her incubator? Do.yoy have a bra for hands free pumping?

NewNovember · 09/04/2023 16:19

Yes when my babies were in NICU I pumped next to them. Would not have had the time otherwise. Also if you can afford it buy the medela freestyle wearable pump. I found the suction as good as hospital grade and you can pump while doing other things even driving.

NewNovember · 09/04/2023 16:20

You could pump with you MiL there too you can't see anything.

BellaTheDarkOverlord · 09/04/2023 18:09

I'd only be able to pump next to her of manual as I don't think they'd be happy me plugging stuff in. I couldn't do it at PILS due to family wanting to know everything happening or how much I'm getting. I feel uncomfortable with that due to previous issues. I struggle to get anything out without being completely comfortable on my own.

Got a small syringe worth today about 2ml worth by hand expressing. Tried the Medela pump again from hospital but still no let down. It's day 11 now.

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CremeEggComa · 09/04/2023 19:43

I used a hospital grade pump form the word go, I couldn’t do any more than I did in the early days as I was so unwell, I never did it more frequently than every three hours and I ended up with a freezer full by eight weeks.

The NICU we were in encouraged pumping next to the baby so do ask.

It was worth it in the end OP, keep going if you can but if you can’t for any reason don’t beat yourself up. You can only try and it’s a very tough time when they’re so small/premature.

It took six months to establish bf but I did it for more than two years in the end through several heart surgeries.

Aliceinwonderland5 · 10/04/2023 11:09

I have been in 2 different NICUs with mine so far. Both have very strongly encouraged pumping next to the incubator, there has been zero issues with plugging things in.
If you want the milk to come unfortunately you really do have to work hard for it, pump at least 8 times a day. I pump more in the day time so that I can do less in the evening so this is sort of my schedule although I just fit it in whenever I have spare 15 mins.
3am express at home
6am express at home
9am express at neonatal unit
11am express at neonatal unit
1pm express at neonatal unit
3pm express at neonatal unit
6 final express at neonatal unit
730 express at home
930 final express before sleep
The 3 & 6am definitely give the most milk. Worth nothing I am expressing for twins so have to work hard to get enough for both babies, currently getting double what they need and I freeze half for when they start to need more than I can give.

You may think you're not getting anything from the pump because it's just a few drops and so getting lost in the machine, but if you keep going even when you think you aren't getting any, it will likely come and increase fairly rapidly! I know its so disheartening when you feel like you're working so hard for little yield! But it is rewarding when it does come, and it does sound like you have milk there.

With events like going for dinner etc, you could pump immediately before and immediately after or pump more earlier in the day so you can leave longer gaps later on. E.g pump at 3pm 4pm 5pm and then leave it until you're home after dinner at 9 or 10pm.

Things that helped me in the first week was a lady in the hospital who showed me that I was using the wrong sized pump parts and smaller ones were more comfy and also worked much better for me. I also bought my own medela freestyle hands free double pump which was expensive but has been so worth it as I was uncomfortable using the hospital one and this one makes me feel much more discreet. Which in turn relaxed me and helped me get more milk!

Good luck with everything, and if it doesn't work or it gets too much then don't worry, the baby is loved and you're doing your best! Sorry for the long reply, I'm in the middle of all this myself.

OneMoreTimeBaby · 10/04/2023 12:54

Congratulations on the birth of your baby OP

I had a spontaneous home birth at 35 weeks and my baby was in hospital for 2 weeks, the whole time I was trying to get my milk to come in, using electric pumps, I felt like a cow. It wasn't the lovely natural feeding I'd hoped for and it still guilts me now.

After 13 days baby pulled his feeding tube out for the third and last time... we'd both had enough and formula in a bottle was his next feed. He thrived after that.

Good luck

BellaTheDarkOverlord · 11/04/2023 21:51

Thanks all for the advice! DD keeps pulling out her feeding tube too. They've resorted to swaddling her like a burrito at night to stop her doing it. She's not even 3lbs now and causing them havoc 😅The doctors told me today they think she may have been weighed incorrectly at birth due to her not gaining her weight back yet after nearly 2 weeks but it's climbing steadily. They think she was smaller than they think.

I've missed a few expressions today due to being with DD1 and taking her out as she's on holiday from school and feel like she's missing so much with dd2 in hospital. I really need to do expressing every 2 hrs. I am getting loads of droplets out of left breast but right breast is a pain. Going to express again shortly at 10 then wait until 2-3am for next one then carry on from there. I'm on day 13 now and getting desperate! Definitely need to drink more water too.

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