Expressing Breastmilk

If you are going to be away from your baby when a feed is due, you may wish to express breastmilk and leave it for her. It is best to express after a breastfeed so that more milk will be made by the time your baby wants her next feed. Usually the easiest time to express is in the morning. The amount you express may vary and differs between mothers. Milk can be expressed by hand, or with a specially designed breast pump.

To hand express:

  • Support your breast with one hand and use the other to stroke downwards from the top towards the areola.

  • Squeeze the lower part of the breast between your thumb and forefinger, pressing firmly to force the milk out.

      • Expressing3Move your fingers and thumb around the outer sides of your breast.Express this milk into a sterile container.

      You might find a hand pump or an electric pump easier and more effective than expressing by hand.

      Remember nothing is as effective as your baby in getting milk from your breast.

      Cleaning Equipment for Expressing Breastmilk

      It is important to clean and sterilise the equipment, teats, and bottles/cups. If you are using a breast pump, clean it with washing up detergent, water and a brush. If you are feeding by bottle, clean the teat and bottle with washing up detergent and water, then rub the inside of the teat with salt and rinse it well. Sterilise the breast pump and the bottle/cup by boiling them for 10minutes (teats boiled for three minutes)or use a sterilising solution (following the instructions provided).When baby is over three months, equipment does not need to be sterilised, just cleaned thoroughly.

      Keeping Breastmilk in the Fridge
      Put the expressed breastmilk in a sterilised bottle or sterilised plastic container with a tight fitting lid. It will keep at room temperature for 2 hours and in the fridge for up to 2 days. Milk should be stored in the back of the fridge where it is the coldest. Do not add freshly expressed breast milk to cold expressed milk, store in a separate container.

      Keeping Breastmilk in the Freezer
      Expressed milk will keep in a freezer box inside the fridge for 2 weeks, freezer for 3-4 months stored as far back as possible, or deep freeze for 6 months. The milk will probably separate into layers but when thawed will mix again. Do not add freshly expressed milk to already frozen milk as it warms the frozen milk.

      Thawing/ Defrosting and Heating Breastmilk
      Place expressed milk in a tightly covered sterilised container. Hold under a tap and let cold water flow over the outside of the container. Increase the temperature of the water to warm until the milk is at body temperature. Use the milk immediately and throw away any left over after the feed. It is not safe to reheat or refreeze milk.

      Storing Milk

      Freshly expressed milk can be stored in the fridge in a sterile container for 48 hours. Defrosted milk can be stored in the fridge for 24 hours. If frozen it can be stored for 3-4 months in a freezer, or six months in a deep freezer.

      Microwave heating can destroy important qualities of breastmilk. It can also cause uneven heating that can burn baby’s mouth. For these reasons it is safer not to use a microwave for heating milk.

      Keeping up Your Milk Supply

      • The more your baby drinks, the more milk you will make. Baby’s suckling stimulates your breasts to produce more milk. If baby is not feeding well or you start to use formula, your baby will be taking less from you and your milk supply will decrease.

      • Breastfeeding mothers need three healthy meals a day, plus healthy snacks and plenty of fluids. Try and have a drink before you feel thirsty.

      • Stress and tiredness can affect your milk supply. Trying to rest and relax as much as possible may help.

      • If your baby cries soon after feeding, the problem may be tiredness or wind and not hunger.

      Spicy or “Gassy” foods
      Spicy or gas-producing foods eaten by breastfeeding mothers do not bother most babies. A few babies will develop gas or act colicky when their mothers eat certain foods. However, there are no certain foods that create problems for all babies. Unless you notice that your baby becomes unsettled every time you eat a certain food, there is no need to avoid any particular foods.

      Vegetarian diets
      If you are on a vegetarian diet you may like to discuss your diet with your midwife or discuss seeing a dietician to ensure you are getting enough vitamins and minerals. Providing vegetarian women are eating well balanced diets, they are likely to have adequate nutritional intakes to maintain maternal and infant health. Women eating vegan or macrobiotic diets may not have enough vitamin B12 and may require supplements of vitamin B12.

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