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Expressing breast milk for bottle feeding

Expressing breastmilk has many benefits. If you want to continue with breastmilk through the first six months or a year, expressing enables you to keep this up without having to be on hand for your baby 24/7.

Also, it means your baby can take a feed from your partner – a special experience for both baby and father.

Expressing breastmilk – getting started

You will need to have a steriliser and expressing set. Some breastpumps are manual – which means you squeeze the pump and the suction draws out your milk. But there are safe, gentle electric pumps you can buy too.

All parts of the pump will need to be sterilised each time you want to express. You will also need to have a safe way of storing your milk. If you are expressing for one feed, the bottle attached to your pump can be sealed with a sterile teat, ring and lid and the milk can be kept in the fridge for up to 24 hours.

If you want to store for use another day, you will be able to buy freezer bags that coordinate with your pump.

How to express milk

Unless there is a reason why you must express in the early days, it’s best to wait for five to six weeks when their baby’s feeding regime has settled down and your breasts are attuned to milk production. Choose a time when you can have a bit of quiet – ideally when your baby is asleep or out for a walk with another carer – then sit comfortably as you would for a feed. Also, try to express in the morning, when you are likely to find you have more milk to express.

Follow the instructions for your particular pump, and do not be too disappointed if the first couple of attempts bring forth little or no milk – this is a new experience, don’t forget.

Don’t over pump – you will make your breasts sore. Just do it slowly and steadily. When you are into the swing of it, you might find you can express for 20 minutes to an hour. Whether you get out 4oz or much more, once there doesn’t seem to be any more to come, try the other breast and then stop. It’s important to be as regular as possible if expressing, so that you don’t over-stimulate production one day and leave your breasts engorged the next. And after a session, make sure you leave a little time before feeding your baby so that there is new milk for the feed.

Storing the milk

As mentioned above, you can store the milk for up to 24 hours in the bottle attached to the pump by sealing it with a sterilised teat, ring and lid and putting it in the fridge. Breastmilk can be frozen and stored for up to three months but you should use the sterile freezer bags that come with (or can be bought in addition to) your pump. These will come with ‘use by’ stickers. It’s important to use these as it’s easy to forget when you expressed which bag. Also note that the frozen milk will expand, so only fill the bag to about one half or two-thirds full.
When you want to use the frozen milk, sit the bag in a mug to keep it upright as it defrosts in the fridge. Then use the milk within a few hours, gently warming it once it’s in a sterilised bottle. Do not re-freeze it.

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