Why express milk?
Once you and your baby have established a good breastfeeding routine, expressing milk is perfect for situations where, for whatever reason, you may not be able to breastfeed, but want them to have the nutrients you're your breast milk provides. Another great reason to express is that it's one of the ways your partner can bond with your baby, by getting involved in feeding.
It's always a good idea to talk to your health care professional first if you are thinking about expressing breast milk.
Expressing milk by hand
Before expressing milk, soften your breasts with a warm cloth, or by taking a shower or massaging them. Then, once you've cleaned your hands and sterilised a wide rimmed bowl to collect your milk, you can start expressing
- Support your breast with one hand then massage down from the top of your breast to the nipple. Work all round it including the underside.
- Now put gentle pressure on the area behind the areola (the dark skin around your nipples) with your thumb and forefinger.
- Squeeze them together and press backwards to release your milk. Be warned though, it can spray in lots of directions!
Expressing milk by electric pump
Expressing milk using a pump can be much quicker and less tiring than using your hands. Remember to soften your breasts with a warm shower or massage beforehand and make sure the pump is thoroughly sterilised before expressing. Depending on the pump you use, it should take 15 - 45 minutes and shouldn't cause any pain.
Storing expressed milk
You can store milk in a bottle in your fridge or freezer. But once heated, any unused milk must be thrown away. Remember to date the milk you store –
- 48 hours in the fridge – store milk in the back of the main body of the refrigerator (temperature between 0-4oC)
- 2 weeks in a freezer box in the refrigerator
- 3-6 months in a separate door fridge/freezer
- 6-12 months in a separate deep freezer
To defrost frozen milk let it stand in warm water until it's thoroughly defrosted or thawed in the refrigerator. Check its temperature before feeding your baby and then use it as soon as possible. Never thaw or warm the milk in a microwave as it will destroys its nutrients.
Getting your baby used to bottles
If your baby is only used to being breastfed, they might be reluctant to switch to bottles in the beginning. To keep them happy, try experimenting with the following:
- Use different types of teats
- Warm the expressed breast milk only to body temperature
- Get someone else you trust to feed them for a while (its best to leave the room so your baby can't see you or smell your breast milk)
- Hold your baby in a different position, such as propped up against your front and facing away from you.
It may take a little time – and patience – before your baby is happy to feed from a bottle. If you've tried everything and your baby is still not feeding from a bottle, speak again with your health care professional or give our Kariclub team a call for some one-to-one advice.
What equipment do I need?
There's a lot of choice when it comes to feeding equipment. Do you go for nipple-shaped or traditional teats? Fast or slow flow? Glass or plastic bottle? And what kind of sterilising equipment will you choose? It's usually a matter of what you and your baby are happy with, and this information should help you work that out. But if you have any more questions, don't hesitate to contact us.
Stocking up to get started
Before you start you'll need to buy:
- 4-6 baby bottles of appropriate size
- 4-6 teats
- Sterilising equipment- this depends on the method you choose for sterilisation
- A bottle-cleaning brush
Baby bottles come in a variety of sizes:
- Smaller bottles from 125 mL for newborns and young babies
- Larger bottles can hold up to 330 mL bottles for older babies
- Fully ventilated bottles are the best choice as they eliminate air vacuums
Sterilising is vitally important. Before you sterilise, you must wash the bottles and teats in warm soapy water and scrub with a bottle-cleaning brush (or put them through the dishwasher). Some people find glass bottles easier to clean than plastic, but they break more easily. There are several ways to sterilise your baby's feeding equipment:
- Cold water sterilising solution
- Steriliser tablets
- Steam sterilising
- Microwave sterilising
Teats come in all sorts of shapes, sizes and materials! It's best to start with slow flowing teats for newborns. Once they're happy to take your breast milk from a bottle, switch to a medium flow. Use fast-flow teats when you're confident your baby can suck at the right pace and won't be overwhelmed at the speed of the milk flow. Choking, spluttering and milk leaking from your baby's mouth are all signs that the flow may be too fast for them. If your baby is unhappy with bottle feeding, try changing the type or make of teat.
- Newborns – one hole gives a slow flow to encourage strong sucking
- Older babies – more holes give a faster flow
Check the condition of the teats regularly. Teats will wear over time and may need replacing particularly if you baby has teeth and bites. Discard any teats with cracked collars.
Using the right teat
There are many different kinds of teats available. Some are made of latex, others of silicon, which is more durable but less flexible. There is also a wide range of shapes of teats and the speeds at which they allow milk to flow through. There's no hard and fast rule as to which you should choose, it's a case of finding the one your baby is most happy and comfortable with. However, in terms of flow, you'll need a slower teat to start with.
If you start bottle feeding your baby straight away at the hospital, make sure you use the same teats you plan to use at home. Speak with the nurses, midwives or health care professional at the hospital to help you decide which teat is best for your baby.
Other useful extras
As well as the obvious equipment there are a couple of other things that can make life easier and your baby happier:
How do I sterilise bottles?
There are a number of safe ways to sterilise your baby's bottles.
- Steam: Electric steamers sterilise bottles in 8-12 minutes. They leave no unpleasant smell or taste, but are not suitable for all equipment (breast-pumps, for example). Make sure the openings of the bottles and teats are facing downwards in the steriliser. Follow manufacturers'instructions carefully.
- Microwave: You can now buy bottles that you simply place in the microwave and heat for 90 seconds, so these will be easiest to use if you have a microwave. Or you can buy a steriliser that fits in your microwave. Be sure to follow the manufacturers'instructions carefully.
- Boiling: You obviously need to be very careful when boiling bottles, and you should always check first that your equipment can actually be boiled. Keep in mind too that teats wear out more quickly if boiled. To sterilise this way, completely submerge all feeding equipment in a pan of boiling water for five minutes. Use metal tongs to lift the equipment out of the pan and put them on a clean surface to air dry.
- Cold water: Using an approved sterilisation tablet takes around 30 minutes and is highly effective; it can touch the skin and even be swallowed with no ill-effects. However, be sure to prepare the sterilising solution according to the manufacturer's instruction. You can use a specially designed sterilisation unit or container; just make sure the bottles and teats are fully submerged. The bottles will then stay sterilised in the water for up to 24 hours.
Tips for sterilisation
- Be sure to use a sterilised bottle, cap and teat for every feed
- Before sterilising, wash bottles, rings and teats thoroughly with hot soapy water and a brush to clean away any remaining milk deposits
- Once sterilised, any equipment not used straight away should be left in the solution until they are required