Expressing and storing breastmilk for preemiesDr. Shruti Jain
Certified Lactation Consultant
Childbirth Educator, Pre & Post Natal Exercise Therapist,
Physiotherapist and Manager neolacta Lifescience
Your infant needs your breast milk at all gestational ages. Giving your premature baby your breast milk is good for both your health and theirs. Your baby might not be able to nurse from your breast at first if they are very little or ill. However, as soon as feasible following the birth of your child, you can begin routinely collecting (or “expressing”) your breast milk. A mother’s own expressed breast milk for a preterm baby is the finest choice of nutrition where direct breastfeeding is not possible.
Your milk supply will increase as a result, and you can freeze the milk you express to give to your child at a later time. Once both you and your baby are prepared, you can begin nursing from the breast.
Table of Content
- Importance of expressing breastmilk for a preemie baby
- Expression of breast-milk
- Storing expressed breast milk
- Transporting and storing breastmilk for your baby in the hospital
Importance of expressing breastmilk for a preemie baby
There are several reasons why expressing breast milk is important for mothers with premature babies:
- Provides essential nutrients: Breast milk contains all the nutrients and antibodies that a premature baby needs to grow and develop properly. It is especially important for premature babies who may not be able to tolerate formula or solid foods.
- Promotes bonding: Breastfeeding can help mothers bond with their babies, but premature babies may not be able to nurse effectively. Expressing milk allows mothers to provide the same benefits of breastfeeding, including skin-to-skin contact and closeness.
- Increases milk supply: The more milk a mother expresses, the more milk she will produce. Expressing milk frequently can help mothers establish and maintain their milk supply, even if their baby is not able to nurse right away.
- Reduces risk of infection: Premature babies are more susceptible to infections, and breast milk contains antibodies that can help protect them from illness.
- Helps with feeding difficulties: Premature babies may have difficulty breastfeeding due to their small size, weak suck, or other health issues. Expressing milk allows mothers to provide their babies with the nutrients they need, even if they are not able to breastfeed directly.
- Supports long-term breastfeeding: Expressing milk in the early days can help mothers establish a strong milk supply, which can support long-term breastfeeding as their baby grows and develops.
Expression of breast-milk
Breast milk expression is an essential process for mothers who want to provide their babies with the benefits of breast milk, especially in cases where the baby is premature or has difficulty breastfeeding. There are several methods available for expressing breast milk, including hand expression, manual and electric breast pumps, hospital-grade pumps, combination pumps, hands-free pumping systems, and warm compresses or massages. It is important to find the method that works best for you and to seek advice from a lactation consultant if you are having trouble with milk expression.
There are several methods for expressing breast milk, including:
- Hand expression: This method involves using your hand to express milk manually from your breast. It can be done anywhere and does not require any special equipment. To hand express, place your thumb and forefinger on either side of your nipple and gently squeeze and roll your breast.
- Manual breast pump: Manual breast pumps are operated by hand and use suction to express milk from the breast. They are portable and relatively inexpensive but can be tiring to use for extended periods of time.
- Electric breast pump: Electric breast pumps use a motor to create suction and express milk from the breast. They are faster and more efficient than manual pumps and can be adjusted to different suction and speed settings. They are more expensive than manual pumps and require an electrical outlet to operate.
- Hospital-grade breast pump: Hospital-grade breast pumps are similar to electric breast pumps, but are more powerful and efficient. They are designed for frequent and long-term use and can be rented from hospitals or lactation consultants.
- Combination pump: Combination pumps can be used as a both manual and electric pumps, giving mothers the flexibility to choose the best method for their needs.
- Hands-free pumping: Hands-free pumping systems allow mothers to express milk while performing other activities, such as working or caring for their baby. They typically consist of a special pumping bra that holds the breast pump in place.
Applying a warm compress or massaging the breast before pumping can help stimulate milk flow and make expressing milk easier and more comfortable.
It’s important to find the method that works best for you and your baby and to seek advice from a lactation consultant if you’re having trouble with milk expression.
Storing expressed breast milk
Storing expressed breast milk (EBM) properly is important to maintain its nutritional quality and prevent contamination. Here are some tips for storing EBM:
- Use clean containers: Use clean and sterilized containers, such as BPA-free bottles, breast milk storage bags, or containers made of glass or food-grade plastic, to store EBM. Wash your hands thoroughly before handling the containers or EBM.
- Label the containers: Label each container with the date and time when the milk was expressed. This will help you keep track of the freshness of the milk and use the oldest milk first.
- Store milk in small portions: Store EBM in small portions, such as 2-4 ounces (60-120 mL), to avoid wasting milk and to allow for easy thawing and feeding.
- Store milk in the refrigerator or freezer: If you plan to use it within a few days, store it at a temperature of 32-39°F (0-4°C) for up to 4 days. If you need to store the milk for a longer period, store it in the freezer at a temperature of 0°F (-18°C) for up to 6 months.
- Avoid overfilling containers: Leave some room at the top of the container or breast milk storage bag for expansion during freezing.
- Thaw frozen milk properly: Thaw frozen milk in the refrigerator overnight or under warm running water. Do not microwave or boil frozen breast milk as it can destroy its nutritional components.
Transporting and storing breastmilk for your baby in the hospital
Storing and transporting breastmilk for preemie babies requires special care to ensure that the milk remains safe and nutritious for the baby. Here are some tips:
- Use sterile containers: Sterilize the containers you plan to use to store your breastmilk by boiling them for 5-10 minutes or by using a steam sterilizer.
- Use a cooler bag: Place the containers of breastmilk in a cooler bag with ice packs to keep them cold during transportation. Make sure the cooler bag is insulated and has a secure closure to prevent leaks.
- Transport the milk quickly: Try to transport the milk to the hospital as quickly as possible, ideally within 24 hours of expressing the milk. If it will take longer than that, you may need to freeze the milk before transporting it.
- Follow hospital guidelines: When you arrive at the hospital, follow the hospital’s guidelines for storing and handling breastmilk. This may include labeling the milk with your baby’s name and hospital identification number, and storing it in a designated area of the hospital.
If you have any questions or concerns about storing and transporting breastmilk for your preemie baby, don’t hesitate to ask for help from your healthcare provider or a lactation consultant. They can provide you with guidance and support to help you provide the best possible nutrition for your baby