Expressing at work
This section provides you with information on collecting, storing and using expressed breast milk. However, your midwife, a La Leche League leader, or a Lactation Consultant are the best people to show you the correct way to express breast milk and how to store and reheat it.
Before you return to work, you can try the following:
➜ Try to have breastfeeding well established before beginning to express breast milk. For most people, this is around 8-12 weeks after your baby is born.
➜ Begin expressing 2-3 weeks before your planned return to work. This will allow you to build up a back-up supply to provide some peace of mind on those days when you aren’t able to express as much as usual.
➜ Expressing by hand is usually the most comfortable way to collect breast milk, but it can take more time. Electric breast pumps are quicker and more efficient than manual ones but also more expensive. They can be bought or hired from a chemist, lactation consultant, hospital, on-line or at some maternity stores. Try borrowing or hiring different breast pumps before you buy one.
➜ Frequent breastfeeding at home, before and after work and on days when you are not working will help to maintain your supply. Your baby will always get more milk than a breast pump can.
➜ If possible, make the first week back to work a short one by returning late in the week. Use the weekend to rest and prepare for any challenges you didn’t anticipate.
When expressing make sure you:
➜ Good hygiene: sterilise pumps and containers by boiling in water for 5 minutes or soaking in a sterilising solution for one hour. Some can be sterilised in a microwave.
➜ Stay comfortable: remember to wear clothes that will allow you to express easily, ensure you have some breast-pads readily available to deal with any leaks. It’s best to express in a place where you feel relaxed as this supports your let down reflex. You can try and close your eyes, listen to soothing music, visualise your baby, call the baby’s carer and talk to them about the baby, etc.
➜ Look after your health: drink LOTS of water and remember to eat throughout the day.
➜ Using a pump: using a double or twin breast pump to express from both breasts at the same time can help cut down the time needed to express. Using a breast pump shouldn’t hurt so if it does try different positions or if it has different suction settings, set it to the lowest setting first and gradually increase.
➜ Find a routine that works for you: if your baby is very young or you have been breastfeeding frequently, you may find you need to express more frequently at first, so you don’t feel uncomfortably full or start to leak. If possible, shorter, more frequent expressing breaks may be better for your supply than longer breaks further apart. E.g., express three times for 10-15 minutes versus two times for 30 minutes if you’re away 8 hours. This way you’re expressing about the same number of total minutes, but you’re stimulating the breast more frequently, which triggers more milk production. You may also want to consider expressing at home after each feed when you are not working. Your body will gradually adjust to the new schedule over a short period of time.
➜ If your breasts start leaking: apply firm pressure (e.g. use the inside of your wrist) directly on the nipple for a minute or two. This can be done discreetly by folding your arms across your breasts. Try and express as soon as possible.
How to store and use expressed breast milk:
Storing your breast milk at work: keep your breast milk in a clean container (sterilised if your baby is under 6 months). Write the date and time, and add your name if it will be stored in a communal fridge. Keep it in the back of the fridge, or if you don’t have access to a fridge keep it in a chilly bin with ice packs. Wash your pumps and in very hot water and sterilise if possible/necessary.
Storing your breast milk at home: when you get home, the milk can be kept at the back of the fridge (where it’s coldest) for up to 48 hours or frozen for 4-6 months (4 months for self-contained freezer compartment with separate door, 6 months for a deep freeze, only 2 weeks for a freezer compartment inside a fridge).
Using expressed breast milk: thaw frozen milk gradually, preferably by letting it de-frost in the fridge overnight. Never microwave breast milk as this can destroy the nutrients in it. Thawed milk should be kept refrigerated and used within 24 hours. Do not refreeze after thawing.