Breastfeeding Your Premature Baby

Breast milk is the best nutrition for all babies, but the benefits of breast milk are even greater for infants in neonatal intensive care (NICU).

This is why UC San Diego Health encourages every mom to pump milk for their infant in the NICU. The Supporting Premature Infant Nutrition (SPIN) program is here to help mothers produce sufficient breast milk for their premature infants.

UC Milk Bank

As a mother, you may find that breastfeeding is a challenge. You are not alone. Many mothers need guidance and support. For mothers who are not lactating, your baby may receive donated milk from the UC Milk Bank, as well as supplemental nutrition.


Our lactation and neonatal specialists offer:

  • Education on the importance of breast milk and skin-to-skin contact to your infant's development and health
  • Education on how to pump, store and transport breast milk to the hospital, as well as information on how to increase your milk production
  • Help with monitoring your baby's progress and recognizing signs of good drinking or distress
  • Help with developing a plan to continue breastfeeding at home after your infant is discharged from the NICU
  • Compassion and support for women who are having difficulty producing milk or breastfeeding

Benefits of Breast Milk

Pumping breast milk and breastfeeding a NICU infant takes effort. But the benefits are worth it. Infants fed mother’s milk during their NICU stay have:

  • Fewer life-threatening infections and feeding problems, as well as a shorter hospital stay 
  • Lower risk of developing necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC)
  • Better brain development and higher IQs when they are older
  • Lower risk of having to return to the hospital after they go home 

Mother’s milk has more than 600 biological factors that contribute to better health in babies. It contains brain-boosting and nutritious fats, sugar and protein to jumpstart growth, and hormones, enzymes, probiotics and immune cells for good health.