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Establishing your milk supply

Why is breast milk so important?

When your baby is born, every drop of breast milk you can give them is precious. Your milk acts like a medicine as well as feeding your baby.

What can I do to help my baby?

When your baby is born, they may not be ready to feed straight away. Until your baby is ready to feed you can pump milk from your breasts (called ‘expressing’) so your milk can be stored until that time or it can be given to your baby through a feeding tube. It can also be used for their mouth care.

Expressing is a skill that can take time to learn. The staff helping to look after your baby will support you with this.

How often and how much should I express?

At first, you may only express a few drops of colostrum (rich ‘first milk’) but as you continue to express frequently, the amount of milk you express will increase. The more you express the more milk you will produce.

By 2 weeks the aim is to express around 500 to 750mls of milk every 24 hours. This may seem a lot but when divided by 10 expressions, it may feel more achievable. Establishing your milk supply within the first 2 weeks after your baby is born is the most important time to make sure there is enough milk for your baby by the time they are ready to go home.

The film about ‘early expressing and benefits of colostrum’ explains this. You can watch via Vimeo.

Your expressing log

We aim to review your expressing with you at least 4 times in the first 2 weeks. We will give you a log to complete and this will help you to see how your expressing is progressing and will allow us to help you if you have any concerns.

Please ask the staff helping you to look after your baby to review your expressing log with you. Once your milk supply is established it is important to keep expressing but you may feel you do not need to continue with using this log, or you might find other ways of keeping a record. If you would like to continue using a log please ask a member of staff for another one.

What can I do to help my milk supply?

Things that can help you establish your milk supply are:

  • breast massage
  • hand expressing
  • skin to skin contact (kangaroo care) with your baby
  • expressing at the cot side
  • looking at pictures or a video of you have taken of your baby while you express
  • smelling your baby’s blanket, bonding heart or a toy while you express
  • keeping a record of when you express and the amount of milk
  • making sure you eat and drink regularly
  • sharing your concerns you have about expressing

The keys to success


This means:

  • Express as soon as possible after your baby is born, ideally within 2 hours of the birth (although this is not always possible).
  • In the first few days, the amount of milk you produce will be small but it will increase.
  • The early milk is called colostrum. It is really important as it contains many beneficial properties, such as protecting your baby against infection.


This means:

  • As often as your baby would feed.
  • 10 times a day.
  • Including at least once during the night, between the hours of 2am and 5am as the milk producing hormone is highest at night.
  • Cluster pumping – this means doing some of your expressions close together to fit in with other things you have to do.


This means:

  • Making sure you are comfortable when you express.
  • Learning to hand express.
  • Ideally you should hand express for the first 24 to 48 hours or until you are expressing 5 to 10mls per expression, then you can combine hand expressing with using a breast pump (hand or electric).
  • Knowing how to use the hand and electric pump properly. Please ask a member of staff or the Infant Feeding team who are happy to help.
  • Expressing until your breasts are softer. This will help your supply as your brain will think you are feeding your baby.
  • Double pumping (expressing both breasts at the same time).
  • Expressing should be pain free, please seek advice from a member of staff if you are experiencing pain when expressing.
  • Infant Feeding nurses will also offer you support alongside your nurse throughout your stay.

Breast pump







Expressing log

Click to download an expressing log


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Please note: this is a generic information sheet relating to care at Sheffield Children’s NHS FT. These details may not reflect treatment at other hospitals. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professionals’ instructions. If this resource relates to medicines, please read it alongside the medicine manufacturer’s patient information leaflet. If this information has been translated into another language from English, efforts have been made to maintain accuracy, but there may still be some translation errors. If you are unsure about any of the guidance in this resource or have specific questions about how it relates to your child, always ask your healthcare professional for further advice.

Resource number: NSU8

Resource Type: Article

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