Breast Milk

Producing, pumping and storing breast milk

You've probably heard of endless advantages of breastfeeding. From a healthier start for your baby to a faster recovery for you, there are far more reasons for feeding your newborn your own milk than there are for formula. But while many mothers are happy to commit to breastfeeding and look forward to the bonding that comes with it, breastfeeding doesn't always come easily. This leaves many moms to wonder if their babies are getting enough nutrients and calories, leading some to supplement their milk with formula.


Since breast milk is simply the better choice, you should do whatever you can to make breastfeeding easier on yourself instead of throwing in the towel. Struggles with latching, feeding, aches and pains can be frustrating to say the least, but take some helpful tips to improve your chances of success. Are you having trouble with flat or inverted nipples? Breast shells may be all you need to correct the problem. Are you concerned about the small amounts of milk you're expressing? A gentle breast massage can often fix that. Overcome your issue by learning what your milk contains, how your baby takes it in and how to get the most from your body and your breastfeeding experience.

About Colostrum and Mature Milk

As you move through the first week with your new baby, your milk will change from a super concentrated substance to a thinner, whiter liquid. The first milk you'll express is called colostrum, and it's a thick, golden-colored liquid that's incredibly rich in the vitamins, protein, fat and minerals your baby needs for a healthy start. You won't produce much of this colostrum, but that's alright because quality is much more important than quantity in these first days. After two or three days, this premilk will give way to transitional milk, which is essentially a mixture of colostrum and mature milk. After two to three weeks of this milk mixture, your mature milk will come in.

But the transformation doesn't stop there. Your mature milk can be divided into foremilk and hindmilk: the foremilk is watery and thirst-quenching and it comes when you start to nurse, while the hindmilk (which comes later during the feeding) has the fat and nutrients that give your baby energy to grow. The letdown reflex -- which often feels like pins and needles in your breasts -- is responsible for the release of hindmilk, and this typically occurs a few minutes after your baby latches on and begins to feed.

In most cases, this natural progression from early milk to mature milk requires no effort on your part, but sometimes problems like clogged milk ducts or sore nipples can make for a painful and exasperating experience. Many mothers worry that for one reason or another, their babies aren't getting the amount of milk they should be getting. Whatever you do, don't decide to nurse less frequently in an attempt to build up your milk reserves, as that can actually reduce your milk supply. Instead, try to feed more often and check that your baby has latched on properly each time you nurse.

Tips for Pumping and Storing Breast Milk

While some women worry about a milk deficit, others struggle with a milk surplus. In both cases, problems and discomforts for mother and baby can be difficult to overcome without the right tools and a good approach. Whether you're having a hard time expressing your milk or your breasts are uncomfortably engorged with too much milk, a breast pump will be a necessary addition to your new mother arsenal.

Not only will the gentle suction of a breast milk pump encourage your milk flow, but it will also help you regain some control over your daily routine and help your partner take part in the feeding. You can use a syringe-style hand pump for occasional use, but you'll probably prefer the efficiency of an electric pump if you plan to express and bottle your milk often. Pumping will take about the same amount of time as breastfeeding at first, but you'll soon become an expert. No matter which method you use, be sure to store your milk in sanitized plastic or glass containers that hold about one serving size. Some breastfeeding supply stores also carry sturdy, sterile zip-lock-style bags designed specifically for breast milk storage. You should transfer your milk to the fridge as soon as you can, but freezing it is another option if you don't plan to use it in the next seven days.