From 36 weeks gestation, you may hand express your breasts to collect and store your colostrum. Your midwife may recommend antenatal expressing if you have gestational diabetes, have previously had concerns about supply, or other concerns that may impact on breastfeeding. If you want to try expressing, speak to your midwife. They will be able to discuss any concerns you have and provide you with syringes to collect your colostrum in.
Start with 3 -5 minutes on each breast. The total time expressing when proficient should only be 5-10 minutes. If cramping pains in the uterus are experienced during expressing, please stop expressing and contact your birthing unit, or nominated midwife if you have one.
You may not see any colostrum for the first few days or you may just see a glistening. This is perfectly normal. Continue to express and the amount you see will increase.
Collect it first onto a spoon or straight into the syringe, whichever is easier for you. This can be easier to do with your partner or support person. Get some labelling stickers from your midwife so you can label your colostrum before you bring it to the hospital, with your name, date and time expressed.
Chill fresh colostrum before adding to previously expressed chilled or frozen colostrum.
Store the syringes of colostrum in your freezer in a container or bag.
When you come to hospital in labour, bring your colostrum with you. Bring it in an insulated bag with a freezer brick. Give it to the midwives to be put in the freezer on your arrival.
To hand express
- Wash your hands with soap and water before handling breasts.
- Gently massage all around your breast. You may benefit from some strokes or taps around the breast – anything to stimulate the breast to release your colostrum.
- Then place your thumb and forefinger opposite on either side of the nipple about 3cm back from nipple base. Press inwards or backwards while gently squeezing finger and thumb together, repeat and rotate fingers around the breast. This should not cause pain, just pressure.
- Use a sterilised spoon or sterile syringe to collect any you see. It may take several sessions to be comfortable with this.
- Move around the areola to express all parts of the breast.
- Remember anything new is hard to do, so keep practicing.
- If you are not able to express any colostrum after a week, speak to your midwife at your next antenatal appointment.