Expressing milk is an ideal way for your baby to continue receiving the benefits of breast milk when you are not with them. It is also a way that those close to the baby can be involved in the feeding.
In the past it was recommended that mums wait until the baby was about six weeks old before starting to express milk. There is no evidence to support this, although it is still advisable not to feed the baby expressed milk whilst breastfeeding is being established to avoid confusing the baby. However, breast milk can be stored in the freezer until required, giving you ultimate flexibility.
You can start to express milk as soon as you feel ready. Starting to express in the early days is an ideal way of storing up expressed milk as there is often extra milk available at this time as your breasts produce more than your baby needs.
Hand expression is a useful technique to learn about in the antenatal period, so ask your Midwife or Peer Support Worker about it. Hand expression is a really effective method of removing your colostrum in the first few days rather than a breast pump, particularly if your baby is on special care. It is also useful when you want to tempt your baby to feed by helping start the milk flow. Importantly, it can be used if your breasts are full, to help your baby attach, or to clear blocked ducts, or to relieve any mastitis.
Maintaining your milk supply
In certain circumstances some babies are unable to breastfeed from birth. Your Midwife will show you how to express breast milk to maintain your supply until your baby is able to breastfeed.
Remember to use a sterilised container to put the milk in. You can store milk in the fridge for up to five days at 4°C or lower (usually at the back). Breast milk can be stored for two weeks in the ice compartment of a fridge or for up to six months in a freezer. Defrost frozen breastmilk in the fridge and once thawed use it straight away.
For more information about expressing and storage view the Start4Life ‘Off to the best start’ leaflet’ by clicking here.