This can take some practice, so be patient. Like anything, it can take you a bit to get the hang of expressing milk. Here are a few tips that might help:
- Try a pump – While you can express milk by hand, most women will use a pump. There are manual types, which need you to squeeze a handle, and automatic types that run off batteries or mains power. You can also get single (one breast) and double (both breasts) options, so you’ll be able to find one that suits. All breast pumps will come with an instruction manual explaining how to use, clean and store your breast pump. You can buy breast pumps from retail stores, pharmacies and the internet. Your midwife, well child or Plunket nurse or GP will also know where you can buy them from.
- Experiment – If you’re having trouble getting more than a trickle, try expressing at different times of the day. Many women find the morning is the best time. You can also try warm baths, expressing with your baby nearby, or looking at a picture of them to help your breastfeeding or ‘let down’ reflex.
- Super clean – to avoid tummy upsets for your little one, make sure all the parts of your breast pump are fully sterilized before each use. You should also store your milk in a sterilized, sealed container.
- Chilled – put your expressed milk in the fridge straight away. You’ll be able to keep it there for up to 48 hours. If it’s in the freezer compartment of your fridge you can keep it up to two weeks, in a separate door fridge/freezer for 3-6 months, and if it’s in the chest freezer it can last for up to 6-12 months.
- Thawing – if you’ve frozen your breast milk try to thaw it out gently. You can do it by leaving it in the fridge to slowly thaw, or putting the container in a bath of warm water. Use it as quickly as possible after thawing, and definitely within the first 24 hours.
- Label it – it’s a good idea to label your containers with the time and date so you know how long you have to use each one.