If mother can manage on her own, teach her to hand express and then leave her to it.  Many mothers find their first attempts awkward and do better without an "audience". She can use the Spoon Card for reference.

Click here for links to two videos about hand expressing and two excellent articles about hand expressing.

Click here for a free downloadable handout that explains why colostrum is awesome!

Depending on her mobility & positioning, it can be difficult for mother to see the drops coming and collect them.  If mother needs help, she may be comfortable with enlisting her partner. Keep in mind though, that mother or partner may be more comfortable with a health care professional helping instead.

A source of moist heat---like a warm wet towel across mother’s breasts for a few minutes--can also be helpful.  The warmth can help mom relax and a warmth has been shown to increase milk output. * Put a dry towel or blanket over the moist one to trap the heat.  You can let mom “soak” in the warmth while you explain what she will need to do to hand express colostrum.

Depending on mother’s agility, hand expressing can be done with baby skin to skin with mother.  Uncover one breast at a time, but keep baby safe & covered with a blanket. If mother cannot manage to keep baby skin to skin while she hand expresses, she may wish to have a partner hold baby skin to skin instead.

Mothers often cannot resist sliding fingers down the breast to squeeze the nipple.  Explain the ducts are further back inside the breast.  With her permission, demonstrate with your hand on her breast.  If mom continues to change the position of her fingertips, have her reposition her hand wide on her breast each time she begins step #3 pressing back, in toward her ribs.

If several drops cannot be collected, it is useful to have mom express one drop & leave it on her nipple to help guide baby in latch attempts.  Be sure to praise her for this drop! 

Mom may collect a small amount of colostrum on her fingertip and offer her finger to baby to suckle.  Mom should offer her finger pad side up, fingernail to the tongue.  Encourage baby to suckle with the finger well inside the mouth, as if latched to the breast.

Mothers often ask how long the milk with stay "fresh" after hand expressing. 
  • Explain that baby will be eating this right away
  • Let her know the hosptial guidelines for breastmilk storage
  • A spoonful is difficult to save without spilling.  If baby will not take the colostrum right away, you may wish to collect it in a medicine cup or colostrum bottle or draw it up into a needless syringe. 

Tips for Helpers