Why would you express while you are still pregnant? … Antenatal expressing has become common practice in many health care settings. Around the 16th week of pregnancy, you may notice your breasts produce colostrum. This is a thick, yellow, viscous fluid that is jam packed full of goodness! Many midwives and doctors will now recommend that some women start collecting colostrum from around 36 weeks pregnant.
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Some common reasons to collect colostrum ante-natally are:
- Mums with diabetes. Babies that are born to a mum with diabetes are at risk of having lower blood sugars in the first few days after birth. Having colostrum available from the very beginning will help stabilise blood sugars and potentially prevent the need for babies to be “topped up” with formula.
- Sometimes mum’s are induced early (preterm) and the baby may be sleepy/poor feeder/struggle to attach well in the first few days. Having colostrum available alleviates the stress for mums if their baby will not feed.
- Cesarean section. Often there is a delay in baby receiving skin to skin contact and the opportunity to achieve time at the breast within the first hour if baby is born by cesarean section. Having expressed colostrum means dads can give baby some colostrum whilst waiting for mum to return to the ward after surgery.
- Anticipated separation or high risk pregnancy. If there is a reason your baby may be separated from you at birth then it is great to have colostrum collected and ready to give to your baby for their first feed. Babies may have a known cleft lip/ a heart condition, or other conditions that might be identified on ultrasound and you know your baby will be taken straight to special care once born.
Colostrum can be collected in syringes and stored in the freezer. They can be brought into hospital on the day and labelled. There are facilities to store your colostrum in the locked fridge on the labour ward/postnatal ward.
Expressing ante-natally does NOT increase risk of labour. It is an effective way to ensure your baby gets off to the best start!
I can show you how to correctly do this technique effectively in a preparation for breastfeeding session!