Something that I’ve noticed since working as an agency midwife is that most pregnant women aren’t informed about the benefits of antenatal expressing!
The commencement of antenatal expressing at 37 weeks was a routine part of the care I provided to all of my birth centre clients when I worked as a caseload midwife.
Right around the 36 week mark I would provide my clients with an expressing kit with a small measuring cup, syringes, caps and labels. We’d talk about when to express, how to store their colostrum and I’d show them just how to do it!
Most of my clients were thrilled to tell me all about their progress, how much they’d managed to collect and even that it helped get the partner involved in the pregnancy (because using a syringe can be a two person job sometimes).
But you might be wondering what is antenatal expressing and why would I recommend expressing colostrum during your pregnancy?
Antenatal expressing involves the hand expression and collection of colostrum during the late stages of pregnancy. This expressed colostrum is then stored in syringes and frozen until your baby is born.
Your body is so clever that it has been preparing for the arrival of your baby by making this antibody rich liquid since about the 16th week of your pregnancy? Cool hey!
Colostrum is vital – especially premature babies. It’s the first milk your breasts produce and plays a huge role in helping your baby to build a healthy and strong immune system.
It’s highly concentrated, full of protein, low in fat and super nutrient dense making it easy to digest for your baby’s little tummy. It also has a laxative effect – helping your baby to poo frequently which can help prevent neonatal jaundice!
Can you see why it’s called ‘liquid gold’?
Knowing how to hand express and collect your colostrum is a fantastic skill to have before your baby arrives. It helps you to understand your own unique breast anatomy, boosts your confidence in your natural abilities and allows you to take charge of your own care instead of needing to rely on your care providers.
Having a stash of colostrum already stored at birth can significantly reduce the likelihood of formula introduction in the early postpartum – if baby requires supplementation or can’t be with you to breastfeed.
Knowing how to hand express also comes in handy if your baby is sleepy after birth (which is common), requires blood sugar monitoring (maybe if you have gestational diabetes or if baby is of low birth weight), is having difficulty attaching to the breast (maybe due to prematurity or inverted nipples) or in the case of sore or damaged nipples.
For all these reasons and more, colostrum is essential for the health and wellbeing of your baby, and is the first step on your journey of breastfeeding.