Expressing your breast milk is an alternative method of feeding your baby after birth. There are a range of reasons why you may consider doing this, including:
- enabling your baby to drink breast milk, even if they are unable to take it directly from the breast
- having milk handy if you and your baby are separated for any reason
- relief of fullness from engorged breasts or mastitis
- to increase milk supply.
Why do some babies need expressed breast milk?
When a full term baby is born their rooting and sucking reflexes are usually fully developed. On the other hand, if your baby is born prematurely they may not have had the time to develop these reflexes.
If your baby is unwell they may also lack the strength to breastfeed.
How do I express my breast milk?
Expression can either be done by hand, using a manual or electric pump.
- always wash your hands before expressing, there is no need to wash your breasts or nipples
- gently massaging your breasts and nipples before you start may help
- if you cannot see your baby, try looking at their photo while you express
- have a drink before you start
- alternate your breasts frequently
- hand expression is recommended for the first 24 to 48 hours and then a breast pump may be used if expression of breast milk is still required
- milk flow may be slow at first but increases once let down occurs
- stop expressing when the flow is reduced to droplets
- it can be helpful to express milk into a container with a wide opening.
It is important to note that the amount of milk you express doesn’t always match the amount of milk your baby drinks.
Does expressing my breast milk affect its benefits to my baby?
No. The nutrients contained in breast milk are passed onto your baby regardless of how they receive it.
As long as your baby is well breast milk is all a baby needs to satisfy their hunger and thirst for the first six months.
For more information about expressing your breast milk, contact your midwife or local child health nurse.