Establishing and maintaining breastmilk supply

Early and frequent expressing is very important. You are not only providing milk for your baby but also setting your lactation up to be able to provide enough milk for your baby's growing needs.

Guidelines for Expressing Breast Milk

START As soon as possible after delivery if possible within a few  hours.
HOW OFTENExpress about 8 to 12 times in 24 hour. More often if your  supply decreases. The more you express the more milk you  will make. It does not have to be regular; flexibility makes it  easier for you.
HOW LONG20 - 30 minutes or until the milk flow is reduced to a few drops.  Switch breasts frequently during pumping.
HOW MUCHA rough guide is approximately 300ml by day 5, 500ml from day  7 to 14, and then 800 ml by week 3 to 4.
METHODSHand expression - until milk comes in. Collect the colostrum by  syringe so this can be given to your baby where possible.
Breast pump manual - If your baby is born at 35 weeks or less  and is in Newborn Services we will provide you with a pump for  your own use.
Breast pump electric - these are available for your use. It is  important that you are shown how to use the equipment. The  manual pump you have been given converts for use on the  Medela electric pumps. We encourage you to express by your  baby's cot/incubator. There are screens available for privacy if  you wish. You may express in the 'Mother's Only Room'.

You can hire an electric breast pump for use at home. Pumps are available for hire from the Neonatal Trust just outside the main NICU doors. They are also available elsewhere; just ask the Lactation Consultant or Nurse Specialist - Family Liaison.


  • Up to 4 hours at room temperature, however it is best to refrigerate as soon as possible.

  • Two days in the fridge however, if it is not going to be used it should be frozen within 48 hours.

  • Three months in front opening freezer.

  • Six months in chest freezer.

  • If anything is added to breast milk it should be used as soon as possible up to 4 hours.

  • Once defrosted use breast milk within 24 hours.

  • Always try to give your baby fresh breast milk if possible.

Helpful hints

  • Wash your hands before commencing.

  • Sterilise breast pump according to manufacturers instructions.

  • Massage breasts gently before commencing expressing.

  • Hand expressing after using the pump will remove more milk.

  • Have something to drink or eat while expressing.

  • Relax and think about your baby - a photo may help.

  • The 24 hour total is what is important. Each expressing may yield a different amount.

  • Every couple of weeks increase number of expressions (1 - 3 times) to help boost supply for 1 - 2 days.

  • Seek help from your Midwife, Nurse or Lactation Consultant if you have concerns.

You are doing a wonderful job!
Expressing is hard work but very rewarding!

If you have concerns or want more information about your baby, ask the doctor or nurse providing your baby's care.