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When is it okay to start expressing breastmilk?

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In the first few weeks (and months) after baby is born, many dads might feel a little helpless. After all, if a baby is exclusively breastfeeding, that responsibility can fall solely on mum. 

These days, many parents choose to share some of the feeds, with mum expressing some milk so their partner can feed bub once a day (preferably at night, right!?)

But where do you begin? And what is the best way to start doing this?

“There’s no hard and fast rules”

In our latest Facebook Live, sponsored By Tomee Tippee, Midwife Tylah, a midwife based in Sydney, says expressing in the early days can be confusing – but she does have some very helpful advice.

“There’s no hard and fast rules. There are just recommendations. But if you feel it’s right for you to do it from day three or day four, that’s also okay,” says Tylah.

“What’s generally recommended is the 6-week mark because that’s when your supply will regulate. However, it does sort of change at that two-week mark. So if you’re really wanting to start earlier and you’re keen to, I would wait until two weeks if you can.

“But waiting for your milk to come in, which is three to four days, is essential. You’re not going to get anything before that.”

Watch the full Facebook Live interview below:

Before of after a feed?: When to express

If you’re not sure when to actually express, Tylah says it’s best to wait until after a feed. 

“So we would recommend, if you’re exclusively breastfeeding, to get that first expressing session in after a feed. This is so you’re not taking any milk away from baby. So you can finish a breastfeed and then you can wait, have a bit of a rest, and then express,” says Tylah.

Additionally, Tylah says to try and express when you know baby’s gonna have the biggest gap between feeds.

“So on average, baby will give you about a five-hour gap once in a 24 hour period,” says Tylah. “And generally this is right in the day when you’re happy and ready to feed. Try to do it then and just be sensible with it.”

Watch out for oversupply

As we’ve all been told, breastfeeding is very much about supply and demand, so parents should be careful about oversupply. 

“You just want to look at the risk of getting an oversupply,” says Tylah. “So definitely don’t go crazy straightaway. Just ease into it.”

So how much should you be expressing in those early days?

“In terms of amounts, babies from 1 to 6 months will have on average, as research says, 750 to 800mL a day. So you’re looking at about 100mL every three to four hours. That would be a good guide,” she says. 

“But you might not necessarily get that straight away. It’s just something to keep in the back of your mind.”

Mixed feeding

If you’re struggling to express enough breastmilk for your partner to take over one feed, it’s completely safe to mix feed. 

“It’s completely okay to mix feed, but I wouldn’t give them together in the same bottle,” says Tylah. “So the best thing is just to give them separately, so that they’re not affecting each other in that way.”

The most imoprtant thing is to trust yourself.

“If you feel like something’s wrong, get it checked out by a lactation consultant,” says Tylah. “

“If you feel like things are going well, back yourself and don’t doubt yourself.”

If you are struggling with breastfeeding, you aren’t alone. The Australian Breastfeeding Association has a free hotline you can call on 1800 686 268 to speak to a consultant.

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