This week, I am delighted to welcome Sonya Quinn onto the page for her guest blog on antenatal expressing. Sonya is a breastfeeding peer supporter and mum of 2.

There is a lot of talk about antenatal expressing these days, so I asked Sonya if she could put together a simple guide for expectant mothers to help you understand more about it. Thanks Sonya!

 

A is for antenatal, meaning before your baby is born.

B is for breasts or boobs. Your mammary glands and the keepers of the milk.

C is for colostrum, this is the first milk you’ll make. It may start to leak during pregnancy and that’s ok. Pop a breast pad into your bra if you need to.

D or DD is for cup size. However, this doesn’t reflect how much milk you’ll make either antenatally or postnatally.

E is for expression. No, not facial expression. It’s getting that magic milk out. You may see it referred to as harvesting colostrum too.

F is for fridge and freezer. You can store colostrum in your fridge toward the back where it’s colder. Unless you are having your baby in the next day or two, label and freeze whatever you have collected that day in the evening. The colostrum can be frozen for 6 months and because it is stored in small amounts it is easy to thaw out when you need it.
F is also for feel. Get to know your breasts and feel for glandular tissue which leads us on nicely to…

G is for glandular tissue. These are the clever milk producing cells, they are generally spread throughout your breast and can continue as high up as your armpit. G is also for Gestational Diabetes. This is the reason many mothers express colostrum antenatally. Their babies may need soe extra feeds to adjust after birth. Having colostrum is like an insurance policy.. Many mothers are choosing to express antenatally for different reasons, some as a “just in case” insurance policy against formula supplentation.

H is for a hands-on approach. Don’t use a pump. Colostrum comes in such small volumes and is sticky so if you were to use a pump, you’d probably lose most of it.

I is for IBCLC, or International Board Certified Lactation Consultant. These are the experts when it comes to breastfeeding. Reach out to one if you need to, especially if you have any special circumstances.

J is for journal articles. Here’s a list of the evidence about antenatal expressing. Inform yourself.

L is for labour, specifically early labour. If you may be at risk of early labour, antenatal expressing may be contraindicated. If in doubt, check with you care team before starting to express.

M is for massage. Gently massaging your breast before expressing will help the colostrum to flow. It also allows you to get more familiar with your breasts.

N is for nothing! In an Australian study, 20% of the mums to be who took part didn’t get any colostrum when they tried antenatal expressing. So, if this is you, please don’t panic. Also, the average total amount the women in the study brought into the hospital was 5.5mls of colostrum…

That’s this much….

O is for output. This may be different from breast to breast and that’s ok. It’s not a competition. Also, the median value the women in the Australian study brought into the hospital, was 5.5mls of colostrum… (0-900mls range)

P is for practice. Expressing milk is a learned skill and it takes time to master. P can also stand for pain. Gently does it. Colostrum expressing should not be sore.

Q is for quick sessions. Try it out for a few minutes at a time. Then, build up to 10 minutes maybe twice or three times a day.

R is for relax when expressing. Set aside a time when you won’t be disturbed. Get comfortable. Put on the tv or some music to help you relax.

S is for supplies. These include syringes, caps and labels. You can pick these up from your local pharmacy or on Amazon . Alternatively, ask your hospital lactation consultant for some.

T is for technique. While remembering that expressing milk is a skill, aim to establish a good technique when expressing. This will make sure that you don’t inadvertently hurt your breasts or nipples. Antenatal expression shouldn’t leave you sore or bruised. Here is one of the many videos about technique. https://med.stanford.edu/newborns/professional-education/breastfeeding/hand-expressing-milk.html

U is for uterus. The hormone oxytocin is released during expression and it can stimulate the uterus. If you experience cramping while expressing milk, stop and contact your care team.

V is for volume. Colostrum is measured in millilitres not litres. How much colostrum you harvest antenatally is not an indication of how much milk you will make once your baby is born, so don’t worry if it seems like a small amount.

W is for warmth. Taking a warm shower or bath, or simply placing a hot (not roasting!) cloth on your breasts just before expressing can help the colostrum to flow.

X is for xtraordinary. This is a baby’s first vaccination. It helps with babies first poop as it’s a laxative, it also coats their gut and is perfectly nutritionally balanced and is easy for them to digest.

Y is for yellow, thick and sticky which is how colostrum most frequently looks. It can be brown, clear, pink … All normal and safe for your baby.

Z is for ziplock storage bags. Not just handy for leftover meals, these are useful to keep those syringes of colostrum gold together and safe.

Having a supply of colostrum ready to go at birth can be useful if and when any difficulties arise. If you are interested in antenatal expressing for your upcoming birth, why not have a chat with your IBCLC or go to a breastfeeding prep class?

 

Thank you so much, Sonya! I know this guide will really help lots of mothers navigate antenatal expressing.   Nicola  

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