You may have heard colostrum referred to as liquid gold. Expectant mothers start to produce colostrum very early in pregnancy. Antenatal expression of colostrum can be a very helpful tool when may it be required?
Why express while pregnant?
Hand expression is a tool that all mothers would benefit from learning. As this is one of the most valuable things that can help you if you were ever separated from your baby, ill or returning to work. Learning how your breast works in the antenatal period can give you confidence in how your body works and also help you after birth.
- you will be able to express off small amounts to dampen lips to encourage feeding of a newborn.
- you will always have a way to remove your milk if you need to.
- hand expressions can help avoid problems such as being uncomfortable from engorgement or signs of mastitis.
- it will help you to understand where the points are in your nipple that the baby’s mouth will need to get to when they latch on.
- you will be able to express if there are any problems with the baby feeding to help you through any difficulties.
- your baby will be able to have your colostrum if they are on a neonatal intensive care or special care baby unit.
- you will be able to recognise any differences or changes to your breasts.
Colostrum harvesting through hand expressing learned while pregnant, and collecting and saving colostrum can be very helpful in some special situations including:
- Planned caesarean or induced birth
- Mothers who have had breast surgery
- Mothers with breast abnormalities
- Mothers with diabetes both type 1 and gestational
- A baby diagnosed with cleft lip or palate
- A baby with any diagnosed congenital difficulties
- A baby diagnosed as having other medical conditions
- Mothers with a known medical history which means they are likely to be separated at some point after birth.
A baby diagnosed with intrauterine growth restriction
Mothers who are taking beta blockers to control high blood pressure
Mothers who are expecting twins or triplets.
- Mothers who have gone into premature labour which can not be stopped (under medical advice)
Some medical conditions make it harder for babies and mother to establish breastfeeding. So saved colostrum can be given to your baby to help you whilst you get the help to become established.
Why hand express?
Why hand express and not just use formula? If you get into difficulties, formula supplementation, particularly early on, can have a devastating effect on breastfeeding success. In addition, formula supplementation – even just one bottle – can carry health risks for the infant. See the article in the resource section below.
Hand expression gets easier with practice and is simple to learn. There are also lots of resources out there to help too.
You only need to express very small amounts of colostrum as you only realistically get a few drops in 3-5 minutes. Unlike the video demonstration where you can see streams of mature milk.
Your babies first feed is only likely to be less than a teaspoon as the babies tummy is smaller than a marble in size and colostrum is very thick and high in calories.
Resources and further reading
Butler, K., (2013) Diabetes and Breastfeeding, Information sheet No.2810, La Leche League Great Britain. Nottingham
Butler, K., Upstone, S., (2010) Storing your milk, Information sheet No.2807, La Leche League Great Britain. Nottingham
Butler, K., Upstone, S., (2012) Antenatal Expression of Colostrum, Information sheet No.2811, La Leche League Great Britain. Nottingham
Cox, S. G. (2006). Expressing and storing colostrum antenatally for use in the newborn period. Breastfeeding Review, 14(3), 11-16.
Cox, S. G. (2010). An ethical dilemma: should recommending antenatal expressing and storing of colostrum continue? Breastfeeding Review, 18(3), 5-7.
Forster DA, McEgan K, Ford R, Moorhead A, Opie G, Walker S, McNamara C 2011, Diabetes and antenatal expressing: a pilot project to inform the development of a randomised controlled trial. Midwifery 27: 209-214.
Mothers of La Leche Leaague BG, (2013) Hand Expression of Breastmilk, Information sheet No.3302 La Leche Legue Great Britain. Nottingham
Mothers of La Leche Leaague BG, (2012) Twins and more, Information sheet No.3203 La Leche Legue Great Britain. Nottingham
Soltani H, Scott AMS 2012, Antenatal breast expression in women with diabetes: outcomes from a retrospective cohort study. International Breastfeeding Journal 7:18.
Service, W. S. H. (2012, June 2012). Antenatal Milk Expressing Retrieved January 31, 2013, from http://www.healthpoint.co.nz/download,322591.do
Walker, M. (2004). Just One Bottle Won’t Hurt – or Will It? Retrieved December 11, 2015
Written by Bex Hough January 2016
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Welcome, I am Bex! I am an antenatal and parenting coach who uses an holistic approach to guide and provide information from preconception to your child leaving home. So that you can make informed decisions which are right for you and your family.
I am highly experienced at coach can tailor your experience to met your individual needs. I has over 30 years experience working with families and children. 14 years experience of Coaching and Training Organisations, Professionals and Parents from foundation level to post graduate level of formal qualifications.
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