Breast milk is the most nutritious and complete food for infants, providing essential nutrients and antibodies that help protect babies from infections and diseases. However, there may be situations where a mother is unable to breastfeed her baby directly. In such cases, expressed milk can be a lifesaver.
Expressed milk is breast milk that has been pumped out of the breast and stored for later use. It can be fed to a baby using a bottle or cup and is an excellent alternative for mothers who cannot breastfeed for various reasons.
We will explore the benefits of expressed milk and some of its disadvantages in this article. Also, how to express and store breast milk safely, and everything else you need to know about this alternative to direct breastfeeding.
Benefits of Expressed Milk
The following are some of the Benefits of expressed breast milk:
Provides all the necessary nutrients
Expressed milk is packed with all the essential nutrients your baby needs to grow and thrive. It contains proteins, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, and minerals that are vital for your baby’s development. By giving your baby expressed milk, you can guarantee that they are getting all the nutrients they need to stay healthy.
Helps prevent infections
Breast milk contains powerful antibodies that help protect your baby from infections and diseases. These antibodies remain present in the expressed milk, making it an excellent way to protect your baby. By giving your baby expressed milk, you are helping to boost their immune system and reduce their risk of getting sick.
Increases milk supply
Expressing milk regularly can help you increase your milk supply. When you express milk, your body is stimulated to produce more milk. It is especially beneficial if you are having difficulty directly breastfeeding, as it can help increase your milk supply and make it easier for your baby to feed.
Enables other caregivers to feed the baby
If you are unable to directly breastfeed your child, expressed milk allows other caregivers to assist. It is a great way to involve partners, family members, or babysitters in the feeding process while also giving you a much-needed break.
Expressed milk is incredibly convenient, as it can be stored and used at any time. It makes it easier to maintain breastfeeding when returning to work or other activities, as you can pump and store milk ahead of time and then use it whenever you need to feed your baby.
Reduces pain and discomfort
Expressing milk can relieve pain and discomfort associated with engorgement or other breastfeeding difficulties. By expressing milk, you can help relieve pressure on your breasts, reducing pain and discomfort and making breastfeeding more comfortable for you.
Disadvantages of Expressed Milk
While there are numerous advantages to using expressed milk, there are some potential disadvantages to consider as well. The following are some of the major disadvantages of using expressed milk:
Expressing milk can be time-consuming, especially if you have a busy schedule. It can take time to set up the pump, express the milk, and clean and sterilize the equipment. It may be a challenge for some mothers who have other responsibilities to manage.
Storage and transportation
Expressed milk needs to be stored and transported properly to maintain its quality and safety. It can be tricky if you are traveling or do not have access to a refrigerator or freezer. You need to plan and be prepared to store and transport the milk correctly to ensure that it stays fresh and safe for your baby.
Decreased milk production
Using expressed milk exclusively can sometimes lead to a decrease in milk production. It is because direct breastfeeding provides more stimulation to the breast, which can help maintain the milk supply. If you are relying solely on expressed milk, you may need to work harder to maintain your milk supply and avoid a decrease in production.
Risk of contamination
If expressed milk is not stored or handled properly, there is a risk of bacterial contamination, which can cause illness in the baby. It’s essential to follow proper storage and handling guidelines to reduce the risk of contamination and keep your baby safe.
Investing in a breast pump and other equipment can be expensive, which may be a barrier for some mothers. It’s important to factor in the cost of equipment and supplies when considering using expressed milk.
Loss of intimacy
Direct breastfeeding can be a bonding experience for mothers and babies, and using expressed milk exclusively may result in a loss of intimacy and connection between mother and baby. While expressed milk is a great option for some mothers and babies, it’s important to consider the emotional benefits of direct breastfeeding as well.
Related: How to Wean a 1-year-old from Breastfeeding Effectively.
How to Express Breast Milk
There are several ways to express breast milk, and different methods may work better for different mothers. Here are three common methods for expressing breast milk:
- Hand expression: To express milk by hand, begin by washing your hands and finding a private and comfortable space. Massage your breast gently to stimulate milk flow, then press inward with your thumb and forefinger on either side of your nipple. To express the milk, roll your fingers toward the nipple and apply gentle pressure. Repeat this process on different parts of your breast until you have expressed all of your milk.
- Manual breast pump: It is a hand-held device that uses suction to extract milk. To produce suction, place the suction cup on your nipple and gently squeeze the manual pump handle. To express the milk, release it and squeeze it again. You can adjust the suction power and speed to reach a setting that is comfortable for you.
- Electric breast pump: An electric breast pump is a machine that uses a motor to produce suction and express milk. Electric pumps can be single or double, and some have various settings to change the speed and suction power. Place the suction cups over your breasts and start the motor to use the electric pump. The pump will automatically produce suction and express milk.
No matter which method you use to express milk, take your time and be gentle to avoid discomfort or damage to your breast tissue. You may also want to experiment with different methods to find the one that works best for you.
Related: Pregnant while breastfeeding. Is it possible?
How to Store Expressed Milk
Storing expressed milk properly is important to ensure that it remains safe and nutritious for your baby. Here are some tips for storing expressed milk:
Use clean containers
When you’re storing expressed milk, it’s important to use clean containers to avoid introducing germs or bacteria. You can use special breast milk storage bags or bottles, but be sure to wash your hands before handling them to keep things sanitary.
Label the containers
Labeling the containers with the date and time that the milk was expressed might sound like a hassle, but it’s important to keep track of how long the milk has been stored. This way, you can use the oldest milk first and avoid wasting any precious milk.
Store in the refrigerator or freezer
Depending on when you intend to use it, you can store expressed milk in the refrigerator or freezer. Refrigerate the milk if you intend to use it within the next few days. You can freeze it if you want to save it for later.
Before storing the milk, allow it to cool.
Before storing newly extracted milk in the refrigerator or freezer, allow it to cool to room temperature. It prevents the growth of bacteria and keeps the milk fresh and safe for your baby.
Use the oldest milk first
When it comes to using stored milk, it’s a good idea to use the oldest milk first. It helps ensure that none of the milk goes to waste and that your baby gets the freshest milk possible.
Do not refreeze thawed milk
Thawed milk should not be refrozen since it promotes the growth of bacteria and reduces the milk’s quality and nutritional content. If you don’t use thawed milk within 24 hours, it’s best to throw it away.
By following these guidelines, you can help ensure that your baby gets safe and nutritious milk, whether you are storing it for later use or transporting it to another location.
How to Introduce Expressed Milk to Your Baby
If your baby is used to breastfeeding directly, add expressed milk gradually. See how your baby reacts to a small bit of expressed milk in a bottle or cup. You can gradually increase the amount of expressed milk as your baby becomes used to it.
Use a high-quality breast pump
When it comes to expressing milk, a reliable breast pump can make all the difference. Choose a pump that is comfortable, efficient, and simple to operate. If you plan to express milk regularly, you should consider getting a hospital-grade pump.
Store and handle the milk properly
Expressed milk needs to be stored and handled properly to maintain its quality and safety. Be sure to wash your hands before expressing milk, use clean containers, and store the milk in a refrigerator or freezer. Follow proper storage and handling guidelines to ensure that the milk stays fresh and safe for your baby.
Warm the milk gently
If you are giving your baby expressed milk from the refrigerator or freezer, you will need to warm it gently before feeding. Avoid using a microwave, which can create hot spots and damage the nutrients in the milk. Instead, place the container of milk in a bowl of warm water and let it warm gradually.
Try different feeding positions
Feeding your baby with expressed milk may require different positions than breastfeeding directly. Experiment with different positions until you find one that is comfortable for both you and your baby. You may also want to try different types of bottles or nipples to see what works best for your baby.
Pay attention to your baby’s cues
Just like with breastfeeding, it’s important to pay attention to your baby’s hunger cues and feeding patterns when using expressed milk. Offer the milk when your baby is hungry and stop feeding when they show signs of being full.
Delegate food obligations
Your baby may be confused or frustrated when you offer a bottle since they are used to being breastfed. It may be easier if someone else gives the first bottle. And don’t be in the same room, so your baby won’t see or smell you.
Not too hot, not too cold
Your baby is more likely to drink expressed milk if it is close to room temperature, 37°C (98.6°F).
Dunk and slurp
Try wetting the nipple of the bottle with a little expressed milk before offering it, so it tastes and smells like your breast milk. Then, stimulate the baby’s upper lip with the teat to make them open their mouth.
Don’t be concerned if your baby does not accept the bottle right away; it may take several attempts. If your baby pushes the bottle away or grows agitated, calm them down and try again in a few minutes. If they still refuse to drink from the bottle, wait a few minutes longer and breastfeed as usual. Try using the bottle again at a different time.
How much-expressed milk can I give my baby?
Every baby is different. Studies show that in babies between one and six months, one baby can take as little as 50ml at a time while another can take as much as 230ml. Start by preparing a bottle with about 60 ml and see if your baby needs more or less. You will soon learn how much milk your baby takes. In any case, do not force him to finish the bottle.
How can I be sure that bottle feeding is safe for my baby?
Always clean and disinfect the pumping set and bottles as directed, and wash your hands before expressing or handling milk or feeding your baby. Follow our instructions for keeping and thawing expressed milk properly.
To warm expressed milk; place the bottle or bag of milk in a bowl of warm water or a warmer, or run it under a warm tap (maximum 37°C or 98.6°F). Breast milk should never be heated in the microwave or on the stove.
How can I be sure that bottle feeding is safe for my baby?
Always clean and disinfect the pumping set and bottles as directed. Wash your hands before expressing or handling milk or feeding your baby. Follow our instructions for storing and thawing expressed milk properly.
Expressed milk is a valuable resource for nursing mothers who want to provide their babies with the best possible nutrition. It is a safe and healthy alternative to formula and can be used in a variety of situations, from supplementing a baby’s diet to allowing a mother to return to work or travel without compromising her baby’s feeding schedule.
While expressing milk can be challenging at times, there are many resources available to help nursing mothers overcome common obstacles and ensure a successful pumping experience. These resources can include lactation consultants, breast pumps, and breastfeeding support groups.
Finally, whether a mother chooses to breastfeed exclusively, supplement with expressed milk, or use formula, what matters most is that she feels comfortable and confident in her feeding choices. Every mother and baby is unique, and there is no one “right” way to feed a baby.
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