Taking Control of My Own Body Through Antenatal Milk Expression

Full disclosure:

I am not an LC or a healthcare provider.

I discussed this decision with my medical prenatal care team, and they were supportive.

This is not typical output for AME (antenatal milk expression). My breasts had very little “downtime” between a pregnancy I lost, a toddler weaning, and then getting pregnant again with this pregnancy. Typically, a first time mom is more likely to 4-5 mL of colostrum. Second time moms typically 10-15mL.

Anyone who knows me knows how much I love antenatal/prenatal hand milk expression. More and more research is starting to show potential benefits for moms and babies. For moms- they learn how to hand express their milk, “get to know their breasts” and feel confident doing so post partum to provide colostrum if needed to baby if unable to latch or hand express to relieve discomfort related to enforcement. They really learn their anatomy- best places to massage to encourage a letdown, techniques for ensuring a nursing baby empties the breast, where the milk ducts are, etc.

For baby, a mom who knows her body is beneficial because they are more likely to feel comfortable massaging the breast and ducts to maximize transfer and thus stimulate mature milk to come more quickly. Additionally, if baby is born quite large and/or has blood sugar drops related to difficulties regulating body temp, gestation diabetes, needs to be separated from mom for emergency medical intervention, or if mom is unable to nurse or hand express immediately after delivery due to complication- the stored milk expressed before delivery could be given to avoid formula.

And I’m not a formula nazi. But if colostrum is readily available- why not give that to preserve the microbiome and “virgin gut”. I mean- if you had it in the freezer- wouldn’t you use it?

Anywho. So after researching, presenting the information to my care team with their support, guidelines and supervision, I decided to hand express and/or hand pump colostrum at 38 weeks. 5 minutes once a day is what I decided to do. Some protocols suggest twice a day for 10 minutes- but honestly I’m an old pro at this point and don’t need that long. I’m low risk. And I wanted to do it because my baby is due to be quite large- and I’m familiar with the possibility of blood sugar drops of large babies. I would rather supplement if necessary with my own milk. I did this with my daughter as well- never ended up needing it- and by the time she was born I was very comfortable with manipulating my breasts to get her to nurse quickly and efficiently. My mature milk came in at 36 hours. She was over birth weight by 10 days.

So. I’m just doing it every other day at this point because honestly- it’s starting to get a little ridiculous. I have 10 ounces frozen already, baby isn’t here yet and realistically I know that this will all probably be donated and not used. A newborn has the stomach capacity of about 5-7mL. Literally 2 ounces would be enough for a days worth of feedings.

I’m just fascinated by what our bodies are capable of. And maybe one of the reasons I recommend seeing if your provider thinks it could be beneficial is because I feel that many women are discouraged from learning how use their bodies as instruments of amazing functionality. Whether it be through sports, feeding babies, or sexual gratification/fulfillment. The older I get the more I can see the correlations.

Women are taught they need help to feed and have their babies. To doubt their body’s amazing capabilities. To doubt their ability to be competitive on the sport fields and in the board room. To doubt their ability to be sexually fulfilled.

Maybe I’m crunchy not because I want to discredit the medical field (I don’t- I work in the medical field myself). Maybe I prefer natural births and breastfeeding as a way to claim my own body, because truthfully I’ll admit I’ve had self esteem and body image issues my entire life. To feel proud of what I could get it to do without unnecessary intervention- because I’ve known a woman’s body is amazing all along.

I hand express for me. For my babies. As a way to reclaim a relationship that is uniquely ours. I trust my body. I can make it do what I need it to do and ensure that my baby will have their milk no matter what happens. Me and my body did this alone. This is our birthing and feeding relationship that I know I can ensure is successful confidently.

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