Expressing your milk

Expressing your milk

Expressing breast milk means gently releasing milk from your breasts, either by hand or with a breast pump. It should not hurt to express your milk.

In the first few days if you need to express it is best to hand express. This can be helpful if your breasts feel too full and uncomfortable or to help your baby to attach.

If your baby is premature or too ill to feed from the breast the midwife will help and advise on how to best express and store your milk.

After the first few weeks if you are going to be away from your baby using a hand or electric pump to express milk can be helpful. Expressed milk can be stored and given to your baby at a later stage.

To express by pump

A variety of different pumps are available to buy or rent and suit different situations or women. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for use and more information.

Storing your milk at home

Any container can be used providing it has an airtight seal and can be sterilised. Label and date each container. Store the container in:

  • a fridge for up to 24 hours
  • a freezer for up to 3 months

Defrosting frozen breast milk

Defrost frozen milk in the fridge or by standing the container in a jug of warm water. Keep the lid of the container out of the water. Once it’s defrosted, use it straight away. Don’t re-freeze milk once it’s thawed. Make sure you use the oldest stored milk first.

Warming your milk

You can give your baby your milk straight from the fridge or warm it to room temperature. It is advised not to heat it as you can destroy some of the nutritional value of the milk during the process.

How to express by hand

Wash your hands first

You can help your milk to flow by:

  • Sitting comfortably, relaxed and thinking about your baby
  • Warming your breast, with a warm moist facecloth for example
  • Massaging or stroking your breast and gently rolling your nipple between your fingers
  • Make a C shape with your hand put your thumb on one side of the breast and first 2-3 fingers opposite towards the edge of your areola (the dark area around your nipple)
  • Do not squeeze the nipple
  • Press your fingers and thumb back towards your chest
  • Gently but firmly press your breast between your fingers and thumb, this helps the milk move towards your nipple
  • Release and repeat the pressure until the milk starts to come out
  • Move the position of your hand to a different part of your breast so that you release milk from other milk ducts
  • Move to the other breast when the flow of milk slows, if you are expressing from both breasts
  • Massage your breast occasionally as you move your hand around

Good health begins with breastfeeding

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