When to start expressing
How much to express
Using breast pumps
Storing your breast milk
If you are breastfeeding, and/or giving your baby breast milk through a bottle, you will need to know about how to express and store your breast milk. While a few women will never express their milk throughout their whole breastfeeding 'career', most mothers find that they end up needing to express at some stage, for various reasons. These may include:
- Needing to have time away from your baby. This may be to return to work, or to study, or just to go out without your baby for a while (or even a short holiday). Expressing and storing your breast milk before you leave your baby, allows them to have your breast milk with a bottle for their feeds (or at least some of them) while you are not together. Many women will start to store a bottle (or more) in their freezer, once their breast milk is fully established, in case of unexpected emergencies.
- If you are experiencing problems with your feeding, such as sore nipples, engorgement, blocked milk ducts, mastitis, or an undersupply of milk, you may need to express your milk, as one of the strategies to help you overcome these conditions. You can read more about these in breastfeeding variations.
- If your baby is unwell and/or premature, or they have a problem with their mouth (such as cleft palate), or they have difficulty feeding (as can be the case sometimes with Downs syndrome), then breastfeeding may be difficult, (or not possible) for a period of time. You may choose to express your breast milk and give it to your baby with a bottle. In some cases, the baby may also need to be complemented with formula milk, if the amount breast milk does not keep up with the baby's feeding requirements.
- To mix with solids. The longer your baby has just breast milk, the less likely they will be to develop allergies to foods. Many mothers will use small amounts of expressed breast milk to mix in with rice cereals, (even pureed vegetables or fruits), once their baby starts solids (somewhere from 4 to 6 months) instead of using adult milks or water.