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Published by Bupa's health information team, January 2010.
Answers to questions about breastfeeding
This section contains answers to common questions about this topic. Questions have been suggested by health professionals, website feedback and requests via email.
Isn't formula just as good as breast milk?
No. Although formula preparations aim to be as similar to human breast milk as possible, they can't be exactly the same. Human breast milk is always better for your baby in terms of nutritional benefits.
Human breast milk is a complex, nutritional fluid containing hormones, essential fatty acids and antibodies. Formula milk is designed to resemble breast milk as closely as possible. However, it lacks many of the useful components that breast milk contains, such as antibodies that help to protect your baby against illness and infections. Babies who are fed formula are known to have a higher risk of getting infections and some medical conditions, such as obesity, diabetes and asthma, than babies who are only breastfed for the first six months.
The nutritional content of your breast milk constantly changes, and some of these changes are stimulated by the needs of your breastfeeding baby. Your breast milk will contain the right balance of nutrients for your baby, at the right temperature and in the right quantities.
- Parker S. The human body. London: Dorling Kindersley, 2007:215
- Hoddinott P Tappin D Wright C. Breast feeding. BMJ 2008; 336:881-87. www.bmj.com
- Advantages of breastfeeding. GP Notebook. www.gpnotebook.co.uk, accessed 18 September 2009
How do I express my breast milk?
Expressing milk means using your hands or a pump to squeeze milk out of your breast.
You may want to express your breast milk for a variety of reasons. For example, you may want your partner or a childminder to feed your baby if you're going back to work or will be away from your baby for some time. Or you may want to express your milk because your baby isn't feeding well from your breast.
You can express milk by hand or with a handpump or electric pump. If you choose to use a pump, there are a range of products available - different pumps suit different women better.
Use the following guide to help you express your milk by hand.
- Cup your breast and feel from the end of your nipple back to where the texture of your breast feels different. This is where your milk ducts are.
- Gently squeeze behind this nipple area using your thumb and index finger. This shouldn't hurt.
- Release the pressure and then repeat squeezing until milk starts to flow. Move your fingers around your breast so that you express milk from all the ducts.
- When the flow of milk slows down, express from your other breast. Keep changing breasts until the milk stops or drips very slowly.
- If the milk doesn't flow, try moving your fingers slightly towards the nipple or further away. Or try a gentle breast massage.
Learning how to express milk can be a challenge, and it's common to only be able to express a few drops at first. You need to find a technique that suits you. Make sure you're relaxed and in a comfortable setting with no distractions before you try to express. Some mothers find it helps to connect with their baby in some way, for example by looking at a photo of their baby or keeping a piece of his or her clothing with them.
- Bottle feeding with expressed breast milk. Better Health Channel. www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au, accessed 29 September 2009
- Becker GE, McCormick FM, Renfrew MJ. Methods of milk expression for lactating women. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2008, Issue 4. Art. No.: CD006170. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD006170.pub2
Will I be able to continue breastfeeding when I return to work?
Yes. Employers have a legal obligation to support mothers who wish to continue breastfeeding once they have returned to work.
Returning to work after having a baby doesn't mean you have to stop breastfeeding.
You have several options for continuing breastfeeding when you go back to work. You could arrange childcare close to your work so that you can breastfeed during breaks or before and after work. You could ask your employer if you can work flexible hours to fit in around the times you need to breastfeed. Alternatively, you can express milk so that someone else can feed your baby while you're at work.
Although it isn't a legal requirement, the Health and Safety Executive recommends that employers provide women who are breastfeeding with a safe, healthy environment where they can express and store milk. The toilets aren't suitable for this purpose. Check with your employer whether they provide a suitable place.
If you plan to express milk when you're at work, it's a good idea to practise a few weeks before you return to work. You may also find it helps to build up a store of expressed milk as a 'reserve', to take the pressure off you during your first few days back at work.
Provide your employer with written notification that you intend to continue breastfeeding, ideally in advance of your return to work.
- A guide for new and expectant mothers who work. Health and Safety Executive.www.hse.gov.uk, accessed 18 September 2009
This information was published by Bupa's health information team and is based on reputable sources of medical evidence. It has been peer reviewed by Bupa doctors. The content is intended for general information only and does not replace the need for personal advice from a qualified health professional.
Publication date: January 2010