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Your question:

How often should I express for my premature baby?

Expert’s answer:

When your baby arrives your baby may be admitted to the Neonatal Intensive Care unit (NICU). Your breastmilk is important for your ill or preterm baby. You may not be able to feed your baby at your breast immediately, instead you can express your milk for your baby. You can hand express your breastmilk in the first few days and then a move to using a hospital grade double electric breastpump from about day 3, when your body starts to make more milk. Start to hand express your breastmilk ideally within the first few hours after your baby’s birth. Once you have started, you should express at least 8-10 times every 24 hour. This is often how a newborn actually breastfeeds. This usually involves expressing your breastmilk

  • Every 2-3 hours
  • At least one time between midnight and 6.00 am as the levels of the milk making hormone (prolactin) are higher at night especially in the early weeks. Night time expressing helps stimulate your breasts to make more milk overall.

Some mothers are unwell after birth and need specialist care themselves. Your nurse or midwife will assist you with hand expression as soon as you feel well enough. Every drop of colostrum is precious for your baby. Starting breast massage and expressing as soon as possible after birth is important to help you make colostru

This may feel like a huge commitment and extra challenge when you are feeling tired, worried and stressed about your baby.  Every drop of your breastmilk is very important for your baby.  Expressing as frequently as your baby would breastfeed is the best way to maintain your milk supply.  Many Mums feel that while expressing is time consuming and can be quite tiring, it is also something really important that only they can do for their baby. 

If you have older children, are ill yourself or have to travel a distance to the hospital it can be difficult to fit in the number of expressing sessions in a day.  Talking to your family and your baby's nurse or midwife can help with working out a routine that fits with your life and helps you achieve as many expressing sessions as possible.   

It can help to make out an expressing schedule that fits with you and your baby's routine.  Ann's story may give you some ideas.

Ann's story

My son James was born early at 27 weeks by Caesaren Section 3 weeks ago.  I still struggle with pain, but I know that my breastmilk will help him get home to me quicker so I do my best to keep my milk supply up.  I'm really lucky to that Joe, his Dad, is a great help and understands how important it is for James to get breastmilk. I keep telling myself that this is not forever and that soon it will be James waking us at night with his little cries, not the alarm clock.  I hope my routine will help other Mums - it is hard but with a planning it can be done.

5am - alarm goes off.  Express in bed - sometimes I watch videos of James on my phone.  Joe pops milk into the fridge.

8am - express in bed while drinking a cup of tea.  I often keep my muslin square with James's smell with me and cuddle it while waking up.

8.30am - have breakfast.  Then sterilise all the equipment for the day. Pack my milk from last night in ice packs and bring with me to the hospital.

10am - arrive at the hospital, give my expressed milk to the nurse.  Have skin-to-skin with James.

11am - express in the hospital.  Have a glass of water and a snack, usually a piece of fruit or cereal bar.

1pm - have lunch.

2pm - express in the hospital.  Then have skin-to-skin with James. 

5pm -  express in the hospital before I leave to go home.

6pm - arrive home, have dinner and a shower.

8pm - express while reading or watching the TV.  Joe cleans, sterilises and prepares all the expressing kits for night expressing.

10:30pm - express.  Put milk in the fridge and go to bed.  Set alarm for 2am.

2am - alarm goes off.  Express in bed, Joe puts the milk in the fridge and prepares the next kit.

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