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Pregnancy Bliss | Reproductive Health Hub

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Expressed breast milk

I want to go out for the evening and I don't want to give formula milk. What should I do?
This has a simple solution, which is to express and store breast-milk. This can then be given to the baby when he or she demands a feed. A breast-feeding mother who is going back to work but wants to continue breast-feeding can use the same strategy. It is also useful if the mother wants to catch up on sleep and the partner or another adult member of the household, is available to take over the feeding responsibility.

If you are considering expressing breast-milk, it is important that you get adequate guidance on how this is best done. A breast-feeding counselor will happily do that.

There are two main ways of expressing milk. One is hand expression, which is easy to master but time-consuming. The second is using a breast pump. There are three main types of pumps, which are hand-operated, battery-operated and electric pumps. Electric pumps are the most efficient but the initial financial outlay may be considerable.

Scrupulous cleanliness must be observed when expressing milk and it should be stored in sterile containers. To avoid wastage, feed-size bottles can be used so only the container to be used each time is thawed and if there is any left over, this must be discarded.

Expressed milk should ideally be stored in the fridge, where it can stay for up to 5 days. If there is a possibility that the milk will not be used within that time, then it should be put either in the freezer compartment of a refrigerator where the temperatures are below zero (0°C) where it will keep for up to two weeks, or in the deep-freezer. Here, with very low temperatures of around minus 18°C or lower, the milk will be safe for up to six months.

There is evidence that the nutritional and immunological value of expressed breast milk is preserved better if milk is stored in the fridge rather than frozen. However, it is important that the mother is sure that the fridge can maintain a steady temperature of above freezing but below 5 degrees Celcius (5°C). A lot of fridges, especially the older models are unreliable in this regard and faced with such a situation, it may be safer to stick with the freezer option. Milk stored in the fridge should be consumed (or discarded) within 5 days

I am going back to work. Do I have to give up breast-feeding?
Not at all. For a mother going back to work, there are three main options. There is:
Stopping breast-feeding,
Switching to formula milk in the intervals when you are at work and breast-feeding at all other times, or
Using expressed milk during your absence and breast-feeding when you are at home.

If you are keen to maximize the benefit of breast-milk for your baby, the last option will be the best. This strategy needs to be decided upon very early in the first two to three weeks of your baby's life. This gives you plenty of time to express and store sufficient quantities of milk.

Remember that you can confidently continue using breast ­milk exclusively for up to four months before considering supplements. Just ensure that the milk is expressed and stored in the appropriate manner.

How do I thaw expressed breast-milk?
If the milk was in the freezer, it can be transferred to the fridge or at room temperature for slow defrosting. Quicker defrosting is achieved by placing the milk container in a large bowl of warm water. Once fully defrosted, the milk should be shaken to allow the cream to mix-in again. A microwave should never be used to defrost breast milk. Once defrosted, the milk should be used within 24 hours, after which it should be thrown away if unused. It should never be refrozen.