If you have to be away from your baby for a short time or need a break from feeding, expressing your breast milk could be the answer. Here are our top tips:
Breastfeeding your little one will give them the best start in life and is a great way for you to bond with your baby but there might be times where you are unable to feed them yourself. Expressing by hand or using an electric pump, gives your little one the benefit from your milk, without you having to be there. Choose a time when you’re feeling relaxed – the morning is often best as your breasts can be fuller. Try having a photo of your baby nearby when you express it as it is thought to help your milk flow.
- Hand expressing
Wash your hands thoroughly and make sure you have a sterile jug or container to collect the milk, and sterile bags or lidded containers to store it. Gently massage your breasts or apply a warm compress. Cup your breast with one hand and with the other make a ‘C’ shape with your fingers and thumb, gently squeezing the area around the nipple. Release the pressure and then repeat the movement, building up a rhythm until your milk starts to flow. If you don’t see any milk, shift the pressure to a different area, avoiding the nipple. Once the flow slows down, move your fingers to a different area of your breast, and start again. When the flow from this breast stops, swap to the other one and keep changing until it stops completely.
- Using an electric pump
If you’re short on time, an electric pump can be a great way to express and some even allow you to express both breasts at the same time. Most work in a similar way, by putting a suction cup and funnel attachment over your nipple and areola. The suction action mimics how your baby suckles and stimulates your milk flow. A manual pump will need you to squeeze a handle to create the pumping action while the electric pump does it for you.
- Experiencing pain
However you choose to express it shouldn’t hurt, so if you are experiencing any pain you should seek advice. If you’re using an electric pump it could be that you have put the strength up too quickly or you might need a bigger or smaller suction cup.
- Take your time
Expressing milk isn’t a quick job – it can take anywhere between 15 and 45 minutes, so make sure you don’t feel rushed. Pump for as long as your milk is flowing well and remember to switch breasts regularly.
- Storing your milk
If you’re not using your milk straight away you’ll need to store it in a sterilized container or a special breast milk bag. It can be put in the fridge for up to five days, in your fridge’s freezer compartment for two weeks, or in your home freezer for up to six months. You can carry breast milk that’s been cooled in the fridge in a cool bag with ice packs for up to 24 hours. Label any milk you put in the freezer so you know how long it has been in there.
- Defrosting frozen breast milk
If you have the time, defrost the breast milk in the fridge before giving it to your baby. If you need to use it quickly, defrost it in a warm jug of water or hold it under some running warm water. Use the thawed milk straight away and don’t refreeze it. Don’t use a microwave to defrost breast milk, as it can cause hot spots that might burn your baby’s mouth.
- After a feed
If there is any milk leftover once your baby has fed, use it within an hour and then throw the rest away. Make sure you clean and sterilize any used bottles or containers, as well as the breast pump, so it’s all ready for the next time you want to use it.