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Bottle Feeding With Expressed Milk

Bottle Feeding With Expressed Milk
There are a number of reasons why some mothers prefer to feed their baby using their expressed breast milk rather than formula.

Breast milk is recommended by the World Health Organisation as the best nutrition for infants. However, some women may find it difficult or uncomfortable to breast feed - their baby may not take well to the breast or they may simply prefer using a bottle. If this is the case for you it doesn't necessarily mean you can't feed your child with breast milk - you can express your milk and use a bottle to feed your baby. Lots of mothers choose to do this if they are returning to work. This way they can prepare bottles of breast milk for their baby to drink throughout the working day. Feeding in this way also means other people, like dads and grandparents, can have a go.

Breasts produce milk when nerve endings in the nipple are stimulated, usually by a baby's mouth. However there are other ways of stimulating the breasts to produce milk - by hand, using a hand held breast pump or using an electric breast pump.

Expressing by Hand

This is the cheapest and simplest method - no equipment required. It can be tricky to start with but once you have mastered the technique you will be able to express milk at any time.

Always wash your hands before expressing milk. It's easier if you are calm and relaxed and it often helps to have your baby nearby or to think about your baby.

Use the palms of your hands to massage your breasts, working towards your nipples. Using a finger and thumb, roll and stretch the nipple to stimulate the nerve endings. Place your thumb at the top edge of your areola (the dark area surrounding the nipple) and your index finger below. Press down gently while squeezing. This should encourage a few drops of milk to come out. Use these drops to rub the nipple further and this should stimulate more milk to flow out.

As the milk is flowing continue to massage around the nipples but remember to change hands if one becomes tired. When the flow reduces to a few drops, move to another area of your breast to squeeze the milk out of different milk ducts.

You should express each breast three times for about five minutes so the process will take about half an hour. Although the first few times while you are learning it may take a while longer.

Using a Hand-Held Breast Pump

Some women find the process of expressing by hand too time consuming and prefer to use a pump.

It is recommended to use your hands to encourage the milk to start flowing and once you have done this, use the pump to continue.

Place the flange one top of your nipple and hold it firmly against your breast. Squeeze and release the pump handle rhythmically so milk flows into the collection bottle.

Make sure the suction strength is comfortable for you. If it is too strong it may damage your nipples and cause you pain.

Use your hand again at the end to remove the last few drops of milk.

Hand-held breast pumps are not suitable if you have cracked or swollen nipples.

Using an Electric Breast Pump

The biggest advantage of electric breast pumps is that they are fast and efficient. The work in a similar way to hand-help pumps but they do the work automatically - there's no need for you to pump yourself.

They can be expensive but you may find some of the features are worth paying more for. Some electric pumps allow you to pump both breasts at the same time which is a real time saver. If you need to express often (if you are returning to work or feeding twins/triplets etc) this type of pump will allow you to express lots of milk quickly.

Some of the pumps allow you to adjust the suction setting so it will mimic your baby's sucking pattern and you can change the suction level to make it more comfortable.

Disadvatages other than the cost include the fact that they can be very noisy and they are not easily portable.

Tips for Expressing Milk

Bullet Allow yourself lots of time to explore different options when it comes to expressing milk and remember it may take time before you can do it easily
Bullet Try to express as often as you would breast feed in order to maintain your milk supply
Bullet Express at least once during the night

Keeping Milk Sterile

Milk coming straight from the breast is completely sterile so it is advised that you feed your baby with freshly expressed milk.

Make sure the containers that you express into have been sterilised in the same way you would sterilise bottles for formula. Bacteria can grow in equipment that hasn't been cleaned properly and contaminated milk can make your baby poorly. Pumps do not need to be sterilised after each use (unless you are sharing with someone else) - just clean them thoroughly with hot, soapy water.

If you need to express in advance of a feed and store (for example if you are going to work) you should put the expressed milk into the fridge within an hour. The milk should not be stored for more than five days - it helps to label the bottles with the date and time it was expressed.

If you have expressed more milk than your baby requires it can be put in the freezer. If stored in a freezer within a fridge it can be left for up to two weeks. If it is stored in a separate freezer with its own door it can be left for up to three months.

Care must be taken when thawing and heating breast milk in order to prevent bacterial growth. Frozen breast milk should be moved to the fridge so it can thaw over 24 hours. Once thawed it will last in the fridge for 24 hours. It cannot be refrozen under any circumstances.

Another way of thawing frozen milk is to run the container under a cool tap. Milk thawed in this way can be stored in the fridge for four hours but can't be refrozen.

Never heat up milk in a microwave as some parts of the milk will be hotter than other parts and may burn your baby's throat.

August 2012

The World Health Organization (WHO) states that babies fed exclusively on breast milk for their first six months will develop most healthily. For infants who are not being breast fed, formula is recommended as suitable alternative.

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