Colostrum – the first milk. Colostrum is full of nutrients, antibodies, proteins and carbohydrates. It is essential and perfect for our new babes.
Antenatal expressing is the act of collecting the colostrum, via hand expressing, which is produced by the body around week 16 of pregnancy. Generally antenatal expressing can be commenced from 36 weeks gestation, however, please discuss with your midwife, doctor or lactation consultant for individual advice prior to commencing.
Antenatal expressing is a great head start for your breastfeeding journey and a great way to get to know your breasts. It can assist with the promotion of successful, exclusive breastfeeding for you and your babe. Your expressed breast milk may be used if your baby isn’t attaching to the breast post birth, if your baby is at risk of low blood sugars, if your baby has lost too much weight or if your baby is at risk of developing jaundice. By having a small supply of pre-expressed breastmilk this may decrease the need to use artificial formula. It has been shown that babies who receive only breastmilk while in hospital are more likely to breastfeed longer.
Begin by applying heat (our breast packs are perfect for this) to the breasts for 5 – 10 minutes prior to commencing. This helps increase circulation and open the ducts. Begin with 3 – 5 minutes of hand expressing on each breast, 1-3 times per day. Don’t be disheartened if you don’t get anything the first few times, persistence is the key and after a few goes you will find your rhythm. Using clean hands, place your thumb and index finger on the edge of your areola (coloured part). Using the pads of your fingers squeeze together to create a gentle, rhythmical movement. The pressure applied should not cause pain or bruising and be at a level that is comfortable to you. Continue this rhythmical movement to stimulate hormone release. Once you see drops collect into the syringe (provided by your hospital or health care service) or collect into a clean container (eg. a clean medicine cup) and then use the syringe to collect at the end. Continue your hand expressing for 3-5 minutes or until the flow of colostrum stops. You can store your syringes in the fridge for up to 24 hours, however then place in the freezer for ongoing storage.
Remember to label your syringes prior to taking into the hospital with your name and date of birth. A hot tip is asking your health care provider for a sheet of your name labels, which you can apply to each syringe. When transporting your expressed breast milk be sure to use a cooler bag with an ice block and let the staff at the hospital know asap so they can put your milk into their milk fridge/freezer. Don’t forget to ask for any leftover milk back prior to going home. Don’t let your hard work go to waste!!
Again, I want to highlight that persistence is the key and if you don’t get much, don’t be disheartened, you should still be proud of your efforts. You have taught yourself how to express which will come in handy once bubs is born and when you might start to see more for your efforts.
You’ve got this mumma!
XOXO – Midwife Jenna