The reality of breastfeeding is that it is demanding. One of the best ways you can ease the pressure is to express and store breast milk.
Not only will this allow you to build up a stock of breast milk so if you are ill, have problems feeding or need to leave your baby with someone else at short notice, you will have stored milk you can rely on. Many Mothers express milk so that they can continue giving their baby breast milk when they have returned to work.
Expressing milk means you can have someone else feed your baby. Of course, this can give you a much needed break, but it also has another important benefit in that it means that the people around you can enjoy bonding with your baby through feeding. How you feed your child is your decision. There are no rules! If expressing and storing milk means you can give your baby breast milk for longer then it is a positive thing, whether you give expressed milk at every feed or occasional expressed feeds complimented by feeding at the breast. Just take care that expressing milk does not affect your supply so that you can continue the feeding routine that you want.
Expressing Breast Milk
You can express breast milk by hand or by pump, manual or electric. Whichever of these methods will suit you best comes down to your individual circumstances. If you only need to express now and then, you might find it more convenient to express by hand but if you intend to express more regularly, then a pump is a better option. Manual pumps work well but are more time-consuming and more labour-intensive as you have to squeeze the handle to express the milk; this can be slow and frustrating. Electric pumps are much easier and quicker, but more expensive and some women prefer being able to control the process more easily using a hand-pump. Read and follow the instructions included with your pump as this will give you the best results. Try to choose a time when you are comfortable and relaxed and make sure to drink plenty; set yourself up with a drink and snack, a clean dry towel or cloth and a comfy chair. Sit up straight and support the breast from underneath.
Storing Breast Milk
You can store breast milk in the refrigerator or in the freezer. In the fridge it will keep for around 5 days while in the freezer it will keep for 2 weeks. In deep freeze (less than 18 degrees) you can store breast milk for 6 months. You can buy special bags for storing milk safely or store it in feeding bottles. Just make sure any container you use is sealed and secure. Whenever possible (if you plan to use the milk within 5 days), put freshly expressed milk in the fridge rather than the freezer, as freezing the milk does destroy some of the important antibodies that breast milk contains. Breast milk is still the best choice for your baby, even if it has been frozen, and when freezing the milk means you can breastfeed your baby for longer it becomes a very valuable part of your feeding routine.
Using Expressed Milk
To thaw frozen milk or warm up expressed milk from the fridge, place the container into warm water or under a warm tap. Using a microwave or hob to heat the milk will destroy some of the goodness so it is always better to be patient and warm the milk slowly. Feed your baby the thawed milk immediately and discard any milk that is left over. You should never refreeze breast milk when it has been thawed.
Further information can be found at www.breastfeeding.ie