Your Guide to Antenatal Expressing



Antenatal expressing of colostrum is considered safe during your final weeks of pregnancy (36weeks onwards).

WHAT IS COLOSTRUM?

Colostrum also known as ‘liquid gold’ is the first milk you produce along your breastfeeding journey. Colostrum production starts at different stages for every women, some start in their first trimester others later in their third trimester. Colostrum is different to breastmilk as it has more of a yellow, gold colour and thicker consistency, and is packed full of amazing properties and nutrients needed to protect and nourish bubs first few days on earth side.

HOW LONG WILL I PRODUCE COLOSTRUM FOR?

Remember every woman is different, however we tend to produce colostrum only for the first 2-5days, before our milk starts to transition to a thinner consistency. Even if you antenatal express throughout your last stages of pregnancy you will not run out before your baby is born. It’s not until the placenta is delivered which causes a dramatic hormonal shift signalling your breasts to start lactating.

WHO SHOULD CONSIDER ANTENATAL EXPRESSING PRIOR TO BIRTH?

  • Women who have diabetes before or during pregnancy – these babies have an increased chance of having low blood sugar levels and can benefit from having extra colostrum.

  • If you are pregnant with twins/triplets.

  • If your baby has been diagnosed with a cleft lip or palate or a medical condition which may affect their feeding.

  • If your baby is needing to be born early.

  • Women who have previously had a concern with their breastmilk supply.

  • Women who have had breast surgery.


HOW TO ANTENATAL EXPRESS:

  • Always wash your hands before expressing.

  • Try expressing after a warm shower or place a warm cloth on your breast before expressing.

  • Start by massaging your breast in small circles around the whole breast.

  • Stroke, lean forward and gently shake your breast to help move the colostrum down towards the nipple.

  • Place your thumb and first two fingers about 2-3cm from your nipple.

  • Press your finger and thumb pads (not your fingertips) straight back towards your chest.

  • Move your fingers and thumb towards each other (compress).

  • Repeat steps – press back, together and release.

  • Change the position of your fingers around the areola to get colostrum from all the milk ducts.

  • Try not to squeeze or pinch your nipple.

  • Collect any drops you see into a syringe.

  • Try to express from each breast a few times every session if you have time.




MY PERSONAL EXPERIENCE WITH ANTENATAL EXPRESSING:

I was never explicitly told to antenatal express with my first pregnancy, the midwives at JHH at one of my antenatal appointments suggested it was a good idea to get use to handling your breasts and to have a stash just in case…. And well I was so glad I did.


When my daughter was born, breastfeeding didn’t come as naturally as I pictured or was told it would be, man it was hard bloody work! I remember struggling to position correctly, attempting a good latch, and well trying to not to cry at the pain of what felt like razors on the inside of her mouth. I remember thinking ‘this just does not seem natural or easy’. By day two I had no idea that babies generally cluster feed, so it felt like that day all she did was live on the boob, and well by the end of that day my nipples were red raw and I was told that I needed to rest and express to allow them to heal. This was utterly deflating, I felt like a failure, that something everyone says is so natural just felt foreign to me.


So every 3hrs I was told to start expressing by hand into a cup and collect it in a syringe to feed to her at the 4hr mark, I then had to do this rinse and repeat every 3hrs for two days straight to let those nipples heal. I was thankful that I had antenatal expressed prior because it gave me the confidence to tackle this task, and maybe I performed it a lot quicker than if I hadn’t done it before. Another benefit to antenatal expressing for me was that I had a collection of syringes already to go that I brought into hospital with me, so I didn’t need to top her up with formula (not that I was against it).


So with my second pregnancy nearing an end, I have started to antenatal express again, just in case because who knows when it might come in handy.

WHERE DO I GET AN ANTENATAL EXPRESSING KIT OR ADVICE? Ask your local antenatal clinic for a kit when you’re around 36weeks and hopefully they will be able to provide you with some supplies to get you started. If not my personal favourite is Made to Milk Antenatal Expressing Kit (pictures above).