Expressing milk is a useful skill to acquire. If you need to express regularly, for example when going back to work, you may want to invest in a good quality breast pump.
But you don’t need any special equipment to express enough for an occasional bottle. Here’s how:
Wash your hands, and make sure your containers for storing and collecting milk have been washed in hot, soapy water, rinsed and air-dried.
You will have the most success if you can stimulate a letdown reflex. Breast massage, warm compresses, nipple stimulation, or just thinking about the baby may do the trick. Some mothers express any remaining milk right after a feeding, when the milk is already flowing, or express from one side while baby is nursing at the other.
Hold your container under your breast with one hand. With the other hand, cup your breast by placing your thumb flat on the upper edge of the areola —the dark pigmented area). Cup the rest of the breast with your hand, resting the base of your index finger on the lower edge of the areola. If you have large areolas, you may need to adjust your positioning so your thumb and finger are 1 to 1½ inches behind the nipple.
Gently push the thumb and finger back towards the chest to get behind the milk ducts, then squeeze them together in a pumping motion. Release and repeat, simulating the rhythm of your baby’s nursing.
With luck, you have produced a fine spray of milk from several ducts. When the spray diminishes to small drops of milk, rotate your fingers and thumb around the areola to a new position. Try to “milk” all the ducts in this way, and then switch to the other breast. You may be able to switch back and forth several times.
If you get only a few drops on your first try, don’t despair; it’s common to have limited success at first. With practice, you will get better results.
Storing expressed breastmilk
Just a few ounces of breastmilk in the freezer or fridge will allow you to leave your baby with another caregiver for an hour or so.
It’s important to store your milk carefully to ensure it remains safe and nutritious. Breastmilk can be safely refrigerated for up to eight days, or frozen for up to three months at the back of a refrigerator freezer that has a separate door, or six months in a chest freezer. Refrigeration is the best option since freezing destroys antibodies that bolster a baby’s immune system.
Chill the milk in the refrigerator right after expressing in a clean bottle or sterile plastic nurser bag and seal tightly. Leave a little room for expansion if the milk is to be frozen. Date containers and use the oldest milk first.
Thaw frozen breastmilk in a pan of warm water for five minutes. Don’t let the milk stand at room temperature to thaw and don’t microwave breastmilk.
Shake to mix in the separated cream and use it immediately. Never refreeze thawed breastmilk.
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