Well, here we are at the end of this pregnancy… During the last few weeks of my pregnancy this time I have been harvesting colostrum to help with feeding the baby for the first few days after birth. I did the same with Eilys too but as she was induced at 38 weeks I only managed a week of collecting. I have been doing this with the “blessing” of my midwife with the full knowledge that it can induce labour. I weighed up the pros and cons of doing it and decided to go ahead.
There are a lot of reasons why you might consider harvesting colostrum. If you are aware that you might have feeding issues like I do, if you have diabetes, if the baby has a cleft lip or palate or you are having a planned C-section you might be advised to make a colostrum store but talk to your midwife and check what they think before embarking on it. It is also a good idea to give hand expression a try before the baby arrives to practice hand expression. There are a lot of things that say that nipple stimulation or hand expression before the baby arrives can force you into labour but a few minutes a day shouldn’t be a problem, but like I said always check with your midwife before trying.
Hand expressing first milk before the baby is here is a tough thing to do and it is quite soul-destroying. The amounts that you can get out will be pitiful but babies don’t actually need that much colostrum to start with as it is so enriched and their tummies are so tiny (see below)
You will need several things to get going with colostrum harvesting…
1ml or 2ml syringes (not the needle ones, I bought these)
A tablespoon or a few medela colostrum storage bottles (I got mine here)
Sterile milk storage bags (like these)
A warm compress or 2
Start by putting a warm compress on your knockers. Make sure that the compress is warm and not hot. Alternatively, you can express in a warm bath or after a shower.
Make sure that your hands are clean. Give your boobs a little bit of a massage, stroking and massaging in a circular movement for a few minutes.
Then measure 2 fingers distance from the top of your nip and pop your finger there and then do the same on the bottom of your nip. Holding your hand in a C-shape, push your fingers to the back of your boob, gently squeeze and pull forward.
Hold the spoon or colostrum bottle in the other hand and collect any drops that come out. After you do this for a few minutes, use the syringe to collect the milk up.
Getting 1ml out at a time is an excellent amount but you will probably only be getting a few drops. Like I said, soul destroying but every little helps! Repeat on the other breast.
Once you have finished expressing store the syringe in a pre-sterilised milk storage bag and pop into the freezer. As the syringes are so small they will only take a few minutes to defrost as and when you need them, you can even just hold them in your hands for a few minutes to defrost.
Also, don’t be tempted to use a manual or an electric breast pump for this. Using a pump is a lot more stimulation on your boobs than hand expression. I have tried colostrum harvesting with a pump and honestly, you get less milk out and the milk you do get just gets stuck in the mechanisms of the breastpump which is super annoying.
This video is really good at showing you the technique:
Thanks for reading!