mother breastfeeding baby

Expressing Breast Milk

Why express?

If you have to leave your baby in someone else’s care and/or miss one or more breastfeeds, you’ll need to know how to express, store, and thaw breastmilk.

Expressing may also be necessary for other reasons, such as to relieve engorged breasts or to build up your milk supply. Sometimes in the first few days, if your breasts are very full and it’s difficult for the baby to attach, you need to express a little before the feed to soften the area around the nipple.

Expressing can help relieve engorged breasts or to build up your milk supply.

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Expressing by hand

  • Wash your hands before you start.
  • Place a towel under your breast, and hold a sterilised plastic container with a wide opening in one hand to catch the milk.
  • Grasp the outer edge of your nipple with your thumb and forefinger, and gently squeeze your breast inwards.
  • Repeat in a rhythmical pumping action. Move your fingers around the nipple to make sure all ducts are emptied.
  • Continue until the flow stops or slows. Depending on when you need to express, you may choose to empty one breast, or go back and forth between breasts until you have collected sufficient milk.
  • Follow the correct procedures for storing and thawing breastmilk.

Expressing tips:

  • To help the flow, try a warm shower or place warm wet towels on your breasts, then gently massage down towards the nipple.
  • Lean forward, as gravity will help the flow.
  • Think of your baby, or focus on their photo, to encourage letdown (release of milk).
  • Breasts are fuller in the early morning, so this is a good time to express (after the feed).
  • Only express before a feed if your breasts are very full and your baby is having trouble attaching.
automatic breast pump

How much expressed milk to give baby at each feed?

Multiply 150 millilitres (mLs) by your baby’s weight in kilos and divide the total by the number of feeds baby has in 24 hours. This will give you the number of mLs per feed.
For example, if baby weighs 3.6 kilos and has 6 feeds: 150 x 3.6 = 540 ÷ 6 = 90 mls per feed.
Note this is a guide only – your baby might want more or less.

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