Prep your body for breastfeeding
Stimulating milk production before baby
Using your hands to stimulate the breasts and collect small amounts of colostrum (early super nutritious milk) once you are 36 weeks can help prime your body to make more milk more quickly after your baby is born. You can collect this colostrum in small syringes, store in the freezer, and then feed this colostrum to your baby after they are born. Keep scrolling to learn all about it.
Visit this website and watch the video “expecting a term baby” before your baby is born to get ready to breastfeed and learn to hand express colostrum.
How to express colostrum
- Start hand expressing only after you reach 36 weeks of pregnancy. Talk to your prenatal provider if you are unsure.
- Express milk 1-2 times daily, or however often works for you. Fit it into your life however is best for you. There are no rules.
- Express for about 5 minutes each breast. If you don't have 5 minutes that's ok, just use the time you have.
- Let the drops drip into a small, clean receptacle (like a spoon or medicine cup) and then collect them into small 1-5mL syringes. You can also collect the drops directly from your nipple into the syringe. Ask your midwife or doctor for syringes at your next appointment.
- Keep the syringes in the fridge for 1-2 days until they are full, then put them in the freezer. Any syringes that are not full after 3 days should be moved up to freezer to ensure the colostrum does not go bad.
How to hand express
- Hand expression is the best way to remove small amounts of milk or colostrum - prenatally, or in the first couple of days post-partum before your milk comes in. It is also helpful anytime you want to give some extra stimulation to your body to make milk.
- Once your milk comes in, the hands can still be helpful. Hand expression stimulates the body in a different way than a pump, using compression and massage (similar to a baby's tongue) rather than just suction as with a pump. Hands can also remove milk that the pump doesn't get to up in the corners of the breast near the armpits. Some people prefer hands over pumps – find out what works best for you!
- Watch this video where Dr. Jane Morton teaches how to hand express (skip to minute 10:45 for hand expression): Https://vimeo.com/348861789
- Your partner or birth support person can learn to hand express for you, which can be helpful immediately after delivery if you are too tired to do so.
Taking milk to the hospital
- Bring milk into the hospital when you are going into labor.
- Store it in a small cooler or lunch bag with ice packs for the ride there.
- Once you are admitted tell your nurse that you have colostrum, as they can place it in a freezer labeled with your name.
How and when to use the colostrum you collected prenatally
- This colostrum is good for your baby! However, you don't want to give it instead of breastfeeding, only in addition to breastfeeding or pumping. Your baby directly latching every hour or 2 in the days after delivery is one of the best ways to get milk to come in, so we don't want to replace that with prenatal colostrum or formula.
- Give the colostrum if there is concern that your baby isn't getting enough milk out of your breasts or from pumping/hand expressing. If you need to give the prenatal colostrum, be sure to also be breastfeeding or expressing/pumping every 2-3 hours to give your breasts stimulation.
- You can ask your nurse for the colostrum that is stored in the nursery freezer and they will bring it to you to give to your baby.
- If there is still prenatal colostrum left when you leave the hospital it will be returned to you. Keep it frozen and you can use it anytime. It is full of antibodies that help protect your baby from getting sick. It can be kept in the freezer for 6 months and defrosted in a bowl of warm water before using just like breastmilk.
More things you can do to get ready to breastfeed
- Read up and make plans! Check out this page for links to websites and books to help you prepare for breastfeeding, as well as local resources, like a breastfeeding warmline number you can plug into your phone now. [above link url: https://www.bmc.org/breastfeeding-equity-center/patient-resources-breastfeeding ]
- Find your support people and talk about your feeding plans with those close to you or who will be helping you care for your baby. Having people around you supportive of your breastfeeding journey will help you meet your goals. Talk with your partner about why you’d like to breastfeed. Learn how to hand express with your birth support person so they can help you do it if you’re too tired. Find friends and family who have had good experience breastfeeding or are particularly supportive of you and talk to them. Find online communities of lactating people.
- If you do not have a birth support person or not sure yet who that person will be (like a partner, father of your baby, friend or family member who will be with you during labor and delivery) talk with your provider to make a plan, or find out if you are eligible for BMC’s Birth Sister program. At BMC we want you to be supported during your birth and infant feeding experience.