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You’ve had them for life and probably grown up wishing they were a bit bigger or a bit smaller, but no matter their size your boobs are first in line with an unrivalled CV for a current vacancy in your life; baby milk maker.

Your breasts might be able to perform milk miracles but wouldn’t it be nice if they came with a booklet for when they really started to matter? Worry not, here is the low down on your lactic let down.

Breastfeeding

It goes without saying that your breasts had bigger ambitions than looking cute in Marks & Spencer’s finest, and now that baby has arrived they are ready to show you what they are made of.

Your milky marvels create complete meals for baby and vary the composition depending on the time of day – so rest assured your perky percolators aren’t serving up a portion of espresso just before bed, and they don’t even leave you with any washing up to do!

The first milk your breasts produce is Colostrum, nipple nectar for your baby. Colostrum is super-charged and rich in antibodies to help protect against the bacteria and viruses encountered outside the womb. It also has a laxative effect and helps expel meconium, baby’s first poo!

The benefits of breastfeeding go beyond nutrition, the skin and eye contact involved aid bonding and Mother Nature included a little something in the milk mix for you too; oxytocin, the happy hormone.

There are, of course, lots of reasons why you might opt for bottle-feeding. So if you’re thinking about using formula milk, check out our formula section here.

Expressing

Express yourself

Madonna may not have intended to write a mammary mantra but her lyrics lend themselves to our next point; breast or bottle do not have to be mutually exclusive, you can express your breast milk and feed it to baby from a bottle.

There are several reasons why you might like to consider expressing; if your baby was premature, or you or your baby are poorly but you would still like them to benefit from your bodies secret recipe, then expressed milk enables you to have the best of both worlds. It also means that your baby can have your breast milk even when you are not there to fulfill the order in person.

Bottle-feeding enables you to share the workload and your partner gets to experience those lovely bonding cuddles that feeding time brings.

There are several ways that you can express your milk.

Hand This can take practice but is the cheapest option. Wash your hands and the container or jug you are using to catch the milk, you’ll find that you need to put pressure behind your nipple, where the ducts are, rather than squeeze the nipple itself (phew!). This is also a useful technique to make your breasts feel more comfortable if they become too engorged.

Manual pump These are simple to use and clean and more portable than an electric pump. The suction cup goes over your breast and you squeeze the handle, once you establish a pumping rhythm you create a vacuum that stimulates the flow. This might be your preferred option if you only plan to express occasionally.

Electric pump As with the manual pump you place the suction cup over your breast, but this time the machine does the work for you. They are noisier and require more cleaning but are a quick and efficient way to express. You can hire electric pumps, which makes them more affordable.

Milk monitor

However you express your milk you can store it in a sterilized container:

  • For up to five days in the fridge, at 4° or lower
  • For two weeks in the ice compartment of the fridge
  • For up to six months in the freezer

Defrost breast milk in the fridge and then use it straight away. Do not re-freeze it.

You can give your baby cold or warm milk. If you would like to heat the milk to body temperature do so by placing the bottle in lukewarm water. Do not use a microwave because they cause hot spots, this is dangerous as you cannot ensure an even temperature throughout the milk and risk burning baby’s mouth.

Nip-Pole Position - latching on

Feeding positions to get you to the top of the lactation class.

Breastfeeding myths

Sore nipples are part and parcel of breastfeeding

No they aren’t! If your baby is latched on correctly, it shouldn’t hurt. If it does hurt, you need to check that your baby is latched on correctly and rule out problems such as tongue tie or thrush which can also make feeding painful.

Every mother has enough milk

No they don’t! Any dairy farmer will tell you that some of his cows produce masses of milk (hence the term ‘prize dairy cow’) while others produce very little milk even though they are all being fed and milked in exactly the same way – and mothers are the same. Some are lucky and have enough milk to feed twins, whilst others have so little milk that they end up needing to supplement with formula. Eating, drinking, resting and feeding frequently might improve things, but many mothers will find that this does nothing to improve a poor milk supply. Nature doesn’t always get it right.

A baby will always get more milk out of the breast than a pump

I have found completely the reverse. I think a breast pump is a very reliable indicator of how much milk you have, how quickly it flows, how long it takes to empty the breast, whether you have more milk in the morning than the evening, whereby one breast produces more milk than the other. It is very rare for a mother not to be able to express her milk effectively with a pump.

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