Expressing your milk is a very useful skill to learn. In the early days you may want to express milk if:
- your baby needs to be cared for in a Special Care Baby Unit or paediatric hospital;
- you or your baby is too ill to breastfeed after birth; or
- your breasts feel very full or uncomfortable or your baby is having difficulty latching on after your milk comes in.
As your baby grows you may want to express milk when you are going to be away from your baby for a time – both to have milk for your baby’s carer to give and to relieve the fullness in your breasts during the time you’re away from your baby.
Breastmilk continues to be an important part of your baby’s diet as other foods are introduced from six months of age. If you are going back to work at this time and are continuing to breastfeed you may need to express milk also.
Whether you are hand expressing or using a pump, breastmilk expression is a learned skill. As well as the physical act of expressing, how you are feeling emotionally and psychologically will have an impact on how well you express your milk.
Many mums find it a bit tricky at first. If you are expressing in the early days it is very normal to only get a few drops. At this stage your baby’s tummy is very small and they don’t need a large amount to be satisfied.
If you need to express milk for your baby in the early days, the following table gives you an idea of what to expect:
Milk expressed in 24hrs
How much baby will get at a feed
7ml – 123ml
From a few drops to 5mls
44ml – 335ml
From 5ml to 15ml
98ml – 775ml
From 15ml to 30ml
*5ml = 1 teaspoon
With time and practice it will become easier and the amount of milk you express will increase.