Hesperian Health Guides

If you cannot breastfeed

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HealthWiki > A Health Handbook for Women with Disabilities > Chapter 12: Caring for your baby > If you cannot breastfeed

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If you are unable to breastfeed your baby, you may be able to remove milk from your breasts by hand and feed it to your baby using a bottle or a cup.

If you cannot remove the milk by yourself, ask someone you trust to help you.

How to remove milk by hand:

  • Wash a jar and lid with soap and clean water, and leave them in the sun to dry. If possible, pour some boiling water into the jar and then pour it out just before using it. This will kill germs in the jar and keep the milk safe for the baby.
  • Wash your hands well.
    a hand holding a woman's breast and pressing toward the chest.
  • Put your fingers and thumb at the edge of the dark part of the breast (areola), and press in toward the chest.
  • two fingers and a thumb holding a nipple as milk flows into a jar.
  • Gently press the fingers together and roll them toward the nipple. Do not pinch or pull the nipple. Removing milk should not hurt.
  • Move your fingers all the way around the areola so the milk can come out of the whole breast. Do this with each breast until it is empty.

At first, not much milk will come out, but with practice, more will come. If possible, try to remove milk every 3 to 4 hours, at least 8 times in 24 hours to make sure there is a good supply. You can usually remove more milk if you are in a quiet, calm place and feel relaxed. Thinking about your baby while you remove your milk may help the milk flow for you. If it is hard to start the flow, try putting warm, moist cloths or towels on your breasts and massage them before trying to remove the milk.

You may be able to get a breast pump to help you remove milk more easily. Some clinics and medical centers loan or rent out electric pumps. They may also sell simple hand pumps at low cost.

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The container can be stored longer in a cool place such as a clay pot with cool water in it.

How to store breast milk

Keep your milk in a clean, closed container. You can store milk in the same jar used to remove the milk. Keep the milk in a cool place away from sunlight.

You can keep milk cool by keeping the container in cool water, or burying the closed container in wet sand, or keeping it wrapped in a cloth that is kept wet all the time. Cool breastmilk will keep for about 12 hours.

If you have a refrigerator, keep the milk there. Milk can be kept in a glass jar in a refrigerator for 2 or 3 days. The cream in the milk will separate, so before giving it to the baby, shake the container to mix the milk. Then gently heat the container with the milk by putting it in a pot of hot water. Test the milk to make sure it is not too hot by shaking a few drops onto your arm. The milk should not be hot, but should feel the same temperature as your skin.

WARNING! Milk that cannot be kept cold will spoil and should be thrown out. Spoiled milk can make a baby very sick.

a clothesline with 6 diapers on it.

The baby is getting enough breastmilk if he gains weight and passes urine at least 6 times a day.