Hand expressing colostrum or breastmilk is important because it helps you to:
- Express a few drops of milk to get baby interested in latching.
- Gently rub a few drops of milk into your nipples to prevent soreness.
- Soften your breasts near your nipples before latching your baby, if they are very full.
- Make your breasts comfortable if they are full and your baby is not feeding.
- Express milk for your baby if you are going to be away from her or need to feed her other than directly at the breast.
You can practice expressing breastmilk as soon as your baby is born or even a week or two before your baby is born. In the first 2 – 3 days after birth, you will get a small amount of colostrum, maybe 5 – 10 ml (1 – 2 teaspoons) or less. Colostrum, a rich, yellowish fluid, is the first milk. It is important for your baby to get your colostrum, because it helps your baby’s immune system and is very rich in nutrients.
To express colostrum for your baby:
- Wash your hands well.
- Find a place where you are comfortable and relaxed.
- Sitting in an upright position will help you to hand express.
- Gently massage your breasts from outside towards the nipple. Roll your nipple between your fingers. A warm cloth placed on your breasts can also help to get your milk flowing.
- Hold your breast with one hand, not too close to the nipple. The thumb and fingers of your hand should be opposite each other and about 2 ½ – 4 cm (1 to 1½ inches) back from your nipple.
- Lift your breast slightly, and gently press the breast inwards toward your chest.
- Lightly compress your thumb and fingers together in a rolling motion towards the nipple.
- Relax your fingers for a couple of seconds then repeat the same motion. Do not squeeze the base of your nipple, as this will stop the flow of milk.
- Move around your breast so you are expressing from the entire breast. Continue this until the flow of milk has stopped. You may want to switch hands and switch from one breast to the other now and again.
- Collect the milk on a teaspoon or a container with a wide mouth if your baby has not latched on and fed. You can then feed your baby the colostrum using a cup or spoon. Ask your health care provider or the hospital to show you how to do this or visit the International Breastfeeding Centre website section on cup feeding. There is also a video on cup feeding from the International Breastfeeding Centre which may also be helpful.
Sometimes a mother may be separated from her baby after the birth. Or your baby may not be able to breastfeed right away. In both cases, it is important to establish and maintain your milk supply. If your baby is not taking milk directly from your breast, you can establish your milk supply by hand expressing or pumping. It is important that you remove milk as many times as a baby would feed, at least 8 times in 24 hours.
Watch this video on how to express breast milk from Peel Public Health: http://www.peelregion.ca/health/family-health/breastfeeding/resources/video/
Watch this video from Global Health Media on How to Express Breastmilk. http://globalhealthmedia.org/portfolio-items/how-to-express-breastmilk/?portfolioID=10861
In this video, Dr. Jane Morton teaches a mother about Hand Expression of Breastmilk. http://newborns.stanford.edu/Breastfeeding/HandExpression.html
Adapted with permission from the Best Start Resource Centre.