There are many benefits to hand expressing, including giving your baby the benefit of breastmilk even when they are sleepy, won’t feed easily or you are separated from them. It also stimulates your breasts in order to generate and maintain a good milk supply, whilst preventing blocked ducts, mastitis and relieving full breasts.
Time to talk you through each step of how to express (use knitted breast to demonstrate):
Firstly, begin by having your baby close to you, either skin to skin or in a way that is most comfortable for you. If this is not possible, you can have a picture or something that smells or reminds you of your baby, such as a bonding square (scrap of material that contains your scent to help settle baby). Aim to be as relaxed as possible.
Next, massage your breast by gently stroking or kneading it with your knuckles for around 2 minutes.
With your thumb and index finger, make a ‘C’ shape and gently press back from your nipple until it feels hard.
Using your finger and thumb, press, hold and release your breast. This should not hurt. Make sure that your finger and thumb do not slip or rub on the breast or nipple, as this can cause discomfort and trauma.
It might take some time for colostrum to escape, therefore move your fingers in small movements around the breast to find the pockets of colostrum. Always make sure that you remain 2-3cm from the nipple.
You will know that you have found this area, when beads of yellow colostrum escape from the nipple. With a sterile syringe (provided by the midwife or neonatal nurse) or bottle, collect these beads of colostrum. Continue to press on the same area, until no more colostrum escapes. Rotate your hand around the breast like a clock and repeat the ‘press, hold and release ‘movement with your fingers in a ‘C’ shape again. Make sure to express from both breasts.
Colostrum goes a long way and therefore you don’t need much. When babies are born, their stomach is around the size of a marble, so it fills up quickly.
Expressed breastmilk can be stored for up to 5 days in the fridge and for up to 6 months in the freezer. When defrosting frozen breastmilk, do so in the fridge and once it is liquid, use it straight away.
*Bonding squares are used by mums whose babies are in a neonatal unit. Each mum is given two squares; one is kept with baby & one is kept on mum’s body. Every 12 hours they are swapped, and they help mum and baby to bond by smell in cases where they can’t physically touch.