Know Before You Go – Hospital Policy on Human Milk

If you are planning to breastfeed your baby, there is something that you may want to check on as far as hospital policies and procedures are concerned. I would never have thought to check on this particular thing, and I never did check on it. An experience following the delivery of my second son made me realize that I wish I had done some more research regarding which hospital I would deliver in.

Anyways, the issue that I would like to discuss today is related to breastfeeding. I nursed my then two and a half year old son all through my pregnancy, so my body was making milk right up until the day that I went to the hospital to be induced. Since I had preeclampsia, I was given an IV of magnesium sulfate throughout the labor and delivery process. One thing that women who are given a magnesium sulfate IV should know is that it can cause your milk to come in late. I had magnesium sulfate during labor and delivery during both of my pregnancies, and both times my milk was slow to arrive.

Fortunately, even though my milk was late for my first son, he did not lose too much weight before it did come in. It was close, but I never had to supplement with formula. With my second son, my milk was also late and he lost more weight than the doctors had wanted him to lose. When the pediatrician came in to talk to me about supplementing with formula, I cried. I really, really did not want anything other than breast milk to be fed to my newborn. I asked her whether it would be possible to get a prescription for human milk, so that my son could receive breast milk even as we waited for my milk to arrive. She refused, and stated that the hospital policy is that only babies in the NICU can get prescriptions for human milk.

Now, I am all in favor of giving newborns in the NICU donated human breast milk. I am just confused as to why babies who are born in the regular maternity ward should not also have access to human milk if their own mother’s milk is delayed in coming. A lactation consultant told me that she had been trying for years to get the hospital to change its policy and make donated breast milk available to any newborn whose mother requests it if her own milk production is delayed. Many hospitals do make donated breast milk available to newborns who are not in the NICU, if the parents request it.

Fortunately, Blake only needed formula for two days. He gained some weight on his first day after starting formula and we were allowed to leave the hospital the next day. That night when we arrived home, my two and a half year old, who had been missing me for an entire week, really wanted to nurse. Within an hour of that nursing session, my milk was in. Blake took to nursing right away, and we were able to stop supplementing with formula because he was getting plenty of milk.

So, the moral of the story is – if you plan to breastfeed, know your hospital’s policy on obtaining donated milk for newborns. It is possible that your milk might come in late, and you may want to have donated human milk available as an option for your child.

Photo by kamuelaboy on