Antenatal breast expression: a critical review of the literature.

Midwifery

PubMedID: 22342171

Chapman T, Pincombe J, Harris M. Antenatal breast expression: a critical review of the literature. Midwifery. 2013;29(3):203-10.
OBJECTIVE
to critically review literature related to the practice of antenatal breast expression (ABE) and the reasons for this practice.

METHOD
a critical review of available literature was undertaken by accessing Internet and library resources. Articles were to be documented in English. No restrictions were placed on dates due to the important historical background of this topic. Keywords used to refine the search included antenatal breast expression, colostrum, antenatal breast-feeding education and midwives and International Board Certified Lactation Consultants (IBCLC).

FINDINGS
the literature search discovered ABE has been performed historically to prepare breasts for breast-feeding postnatally. It is presently being taught to store colostrum to prevent neonatal hypoglycaemia or hasten production of Lactogenesis 2. Studies relating to nipple stimulation were also critically appraised due to concerns of premature labour.

CONCLUSIONS
the safety and efficacy of ABE has yet to be demonstrated. The three studies related to the benefits teaching of this skill were small in size with methodological flaws. Trials related to nipple stimulation were also found to have substantial limitations. The reasons for and physicality of performing ABE vs. nipple stimulation differed markedly. While recent teaching of ABE has been encouraged through available commentaries, case studies and policies (in view of the documented positive effects of early colostrum administration), the benefits of this practice are yet to be substantiated.

IMPLICATIONS FOR PRACTICE
large, credible RCTs are needed to confirm efficacy and safety of this technique. A survey exploring the prevalence of ABE practices is also indicated and to explore the information currently provided by midwives to women in their care.