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For many mums, thinking about how they are going to feel their baby is something considered once the baby arrives, with the birthing and arrival the focus.

Being prepared for breastfeeding is important and antenatal expressing is a popular and beneficial process to give many mums a head start on breastfeeding.

When done safely and with guidance from the health professionals, mums can get experience in expressing ahead of the baby arriving and understand the process of expressing colostrum to help with the baby’s growth.

Breastfeeding can uncover many challenges, and our lactation consultant Rene Sandeman has put together some helpful tips for how to antenatal express and how you can generate a stash of colostrum ready for your bub.

Breast milk is considered the gold standard when feeding you baby, and both WHO (World Health Organisation) and the NHMRC (National Health and Medical Research Council)  recommend breastfeeding exclusively until 6 months and then alongside family foods for at least one to two years and beyond.

Antenatal expressing can be beneficial to help prevent the use of formula unnecessarily and to get your body started on the road to breastfeeding.

Medical conditions this process can assist include:

  • Women with diabetes type 1 or gestational diabetes whose babies may be susceptible to reduced blood sugars or increased risk of being admitted to the special care nursery
  • Women who have had breast augmentation or reduction where there may not have been sufficient breast tissue or where the nerves may have been affected.
  • Babies who have been diagnosed with cleft lip and cleft palate and may find breastfeeding difficult
  • Women with polycystic ovarian syndrome
  • Babies who may struggle to feed due to cardiac or neurological issues who also may need to spend time in the special care nursery

Important things to note about antenatal expressing before you commence

  • You should consult with your primary care provider before antenatal expressing to be sure there are no risk factors 
  • It should only be done after 36-week gestation
  • It should only be done by hand and a pump should never be used during pregnancy
  • Don't be discouraged and feel you won't be able to breastfeed if you are unable to express any colostrum out. This is not an indicator of how well you will be able to supply milk to your baby
  • Seek help and support for further education from an experienced breastfeeding professional such as an IBCLC
  • You should stop expressing immediately and advise you primary pregnancy care provider if you experience any painful contractions

How to start antenatal expressing

  • You can start doing it after 36 weeks and after you have discussed any concerns or risk with your primary pregnancy care provider
  • Wash your hands well and find a clean, wide-rimmed container to collect any drips into. 
  • You may get nothing, a few drops or more however this is not an indicator of how good your supply will be or your ability to feed your baby so please don't be discouraged if you cannot get anything
  • Expressing after a warm shower may be helpful, and a gentle massage beforehand can also be useful
  • Hand express twice a day, usually once in the morning and once in the evening works well
  • Continue doing it for 5 mins each side and then stop
  • You can collect anything you get out into a syringe (which you can buy from the chemist or obtain from your health care provider) and use one syringe per day. Put the morning amount in the fridge and you can add the evening amount to it once it has also been cooled. 
  • Label it with the date, and freeze it ready to take in with you when you go to the hospital 
  • Once again, STOP if you feel any pain or contractions and advise your health care provider

If you would like to find out more about antenatal expressing or breastfeeding, we welcome you to get in contact with our international board-certified lactation consultant Rene Sandeman.

Find out more about Rene's Sandeman and her Lactation Consulting IBCLC Breastfeeding Support, via her blog and website.

Jordana Edwards is founder of Clean Tea Australia and The Breastfeeding Tea Co. Created in 2013 in collaboration with her naturopath mother, Jordana first sold Clean Tea at the markets in Byron Bay before growing her “little tea stall” into a multimillion dollar ecommerce global business.As the recipient of an astounding 5 awards at the 2020 Ausmumprenuer Awards, this business powerhouse has also been listed as one of the 2020 Remodista International “Women to Watch” in business disruption, as well as being a nominee as a Facebook “Community Leader” for her work training, mentoring and supporting women in business in her local and rural area.