1. Mothers may express milk for many reasons, and at many different times. A mother with gestational diabetes might express colostrum before her baby is born; mothers also express if they are separated from their baby, if their baby won’t latch on, or to relieve engorgement. Once breastfeeding is established, many families share feeding using bottles of expressed milk.
2. Different pumps may be useful in different circumstances. Hospital-grade electric pumps can be hired locally. If you are only expressing now and then, a manual pump might be suitable. Colostrum can be expressed by hand without a pump.
3. Expressed breastmilk can be stored at room temperature for about 8 hours, in the fridge for 5 days, and in the freezer for 6 months. Defrost in the fridge and warm if necessary by putting the container of milk into hot water.
4. If you are giving both breastmilk and formula milk, you might want to offer them separately, giving the breastmilk first to maximise the amount taken, rather than diluting it with formula.
5. Expressed breastmilk can be given to the baby with a syringe, a spoon, a feeding cup, or a bottle. These will need to be sterilised.
6. If you are only expressing and your baby is not feeding at the breast, it is helpful to express very frequently: around 10 times in 24 hours, including once during the night, to mimic the feeding pattern of a baby.
7. Expressing in addition to breastfeeding usually increases the milk supply. Expressing instead of breastfeeding may decrease the milk supply.
8. Closeness with your baby stimulates release of the hormone oxytocin, which helps the flow of milk. Closeness with your breastpump is less likely to have this effect. Some women find that their milk does not flow easily for the pump. Therefore, the amount of milk you can pump is NOT a good indication of the amount of milk you can produce.
9. Warmth, gentle massage, and the sight/sound/smell of your baby can stimulate oxytocin and help milk to flow. Sometimes expressing in a warm bath can be effective.
10. The best time of day to express is whenever you have the time. Breasts produce more milk when they are frequently used, so it is possible to express before, after, or even during a feed. If you can’t find time to express, and you don’t have to, then leave it for a little while until things settle down.
For support with any aspect of infant feeding, you can call the NCT Feeding Line from 8am to midnight, every day, on 0300 3300 700.