Giving your baby just breast milk and nothing else to eat or drink for around the first six months has many health benefits. It contains necessary nutrients for your baby to grow and is easier for babies to digest than formula. Also, it helps babies to fight infections and viruses.
Babies who are breastfed may be less likely to develop childhood diabetes. It is thought that cow’s milk (the main ingredient of formula milk) may cause a possible trigger for diabetes in some babies; this may be more likely for your baby if you or your partner have diabetes.
Therefore, it is very important that mothers who are diabetic avoid giving their baby formula milk if at all possible until the baby is at least six months old.
If you have diabetes and are insulin dependent you may find that you need less insulin when you are breastfeeding and that you need to eat more. If you have gestational diabetes you are less likely to go on to develop diabetes in later life if you breastfeed your baby.
Breastfeeding also protects mothers from some cancers and osteoporosis.
Benefits of expressing your milk
It can also be helpful for other mothers to express if:
- They have high blood pressure
- Are taking beta blockers
- Are expecting a small for gestational age baby
- Are expecting a large baby
- Are having twins or triplets
- Are having elective sections.
- May have their baby before their due date, as these babies may be at risk of low blood sugars and may benefit from breastmilk top ups.
- If you are a mother with diabetes, in the first few hours of life your baby may have a short time when their blood sugar is low and they will need a little extra milk. You will be encouraged to give your baby frequent feeds to help prevent this. It would be helpful if you have already expressed some of your breast milk so that, if your baby does need extra milk, this can be given to them instead of formula milk.
The ideal time to do this is before your baby is born after 37 weeks gestation.
How to express milk during pregnancy
Gently massage the breast (no dragging of the skin) and gently roll your nipple.
To find the right spot, make a C shape with your thumb and fingers, approximately 2-3cm from the nipple.
Squeeze gently and release, taking care not to drag the skin, and get a rhythm going.
Small drops then appear, which can be collected in an oral syringe. As the flow subsides, rotate around the breast and move to the other breast.
You can do this three or four times a day and you may only get a small amount (less than 1ml), but don’t worry.
If you need any antenatal support with expressing, you can contact the infant feeding lead midwife.
Remember to use a sterilised container to put the milk in.
You can store breast milk in the fridge for up to five days at 4°C or lower (usually at the back of the fridge. Never keep it in the door). It can also be stored for two weeks in the ice compartment of a fridge or for up to six months in a freezer.
Defrost frozen breast milk in the fridge. Once thawed, use it straight away.
If your baby prefers, you can warm the milk up to body temperature before feeding. Never heat milk in the microwave as it can cause hot spots which can burn your baby’s mouth.
You may find that when you express you feel your womb going hard and relaxing – these are ‘Braxton Hicks’ contractions. Don’t worry about these, unless they begin to feel like period-type cramps or mild labour contractions.
This is rare, but if it happens you should stop expressing and rest. If they don’t stop and you think
you might be in early labour, you should telephone the ward / team for advice.
Date of Issue: June 2021
Review Period: June 2024