How to hand express colostrum
To hand express colostrum you need to:
Always wash your hands before expressing.
Applying a warm compress to your breast or expressing after a warm bath or shower can help the flow of colostrum.
Get yourself comfortable. Perhaps seated and leaning slightly forward but find what works best for you.
Start with a gentle breast massage, stroking from the back of your breast towards the nipple to encourage the let-down reflex.
Put your thumb above the nipple and your first few fingers below the nipple. You will be cupping the breast in a ‘C’ shape.
With your thumb and fingers, feel a few centimetres back from the nipple.
Press back towards your chest, then compress (press your fingers together), and release.
Repeat this process, building up a rhythm. Press, compress, release.
It may be useful to look online for videos of hand expression techniques.
There are many videos available to show you step-by-step instructions on how to express colostrum, click here.
You should stop expressing immediately if you are having contractions at any time.
How to store expressed colostrum
Ideally freshly expressed colostrum should be drawn up into the syringes immediately.
Don't completely fill the syringes, leave a little bit of room at the top to allow for the colostrum to expand while freezing.
Label the syringe with the waterproof sticker detailing the date and time of the first expression collected and your name to ensure correct identification.
Place the syringe/s into the zip-lock bag before putting into the freezer.
Ideally frozen colostrum should be used within three months of freezing but it is acceptable to keep frozen for up to 12 months in a deep freezer (-20 °C).
Once thawed, it should be used within 24 hours.
How to warm expressed colostrum
Frozen colostrum should defrost in a refrigerator or in lukewarm water
Fill a cup with warm water (max 40 °C), then add your filled syringe
It should only need a few minutes to bring it to body temperature
Thawed breast milk left at room temperature should be fed to your baby immediately and discarded within one-two hours.
Always check the temperature prior to giving the colostrum to your baby, you do not want it to be hot, you are aiming for body temperature.
Transporting to hospital?
Colostrum can be collected two to three times each day in the same syringe. You will need to store the syringe in the fridge between uses.
At the end of the collecting day, the colostrum can be frozen – place the syringe into a zip-lock bag before putting into the freezer. Label the syringe and bag (separately) with the date and time of when you expressed. The frozen colostrum can be stored for up to six months in the freezer. Once thawed, it should be used within 24 hours.
Is Colostrum Collection safe?
Colostrum collection is safe for LOW RISK mothers starting at 38+ weeks. Read more here. Collecting your colostrum during pregnancy has benefits for all women and their babees. However, it is especially beneficial for your babee if they are likely to have difficulties with feeding or maintaining their blood sugar levels during the first few days after birth. This may be because your babee: • is large or small for their gestational age • is a twin or triplet • has a cleft lip or palate • has Down’s syndrome or a heart condition.
Collecting your colostrum can also be beneficial for your babee if you: • are taking beta blockers to control high blood pressure • have developed pre-eclampsia during pregnancy • are diabetic or have developed diabetes during pregnancy • have polycystic ovary syndrome • have breast hypoplasia (a condition in which the breast doesn’t fully develop) or you have had breast surgery • have a raised body mass index (BMI) • plan to give birth by Caesarean section.
The Breast Friend Kit™️ comes complete with everything you'll need for colostrum collection, syringes, medicine cup, spoon, storage labels and even a newborn tummy bead model. Purchase yours here and practice before babee arrives.
These instructions apply to full term healthy babees. If your baby is premature or unwell please follow the advice given by the hospital and health professionals.
Sources: Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine, La LECHE League