Any mum who breast feeds should have some way of expressing breast milk for her baby. It may be an everyday occurrence or a once off e.g. returning to work or a trip to the cinema. Expressing milk means baby can still drink breast milk if you need to be separated from them for a few hours or more.
3 Ways to Express Breast Milk
1. Hand Expressing
Hand expression has a particular technique that can take a few tries to get the hang of. Ideally your midwife should show you how to hand express after baby is born. If you’ve not had a demonstration ask a breastfeeding advisor, community midwife or health visitor, as sometimes it’s easier to learn by doing. Watch this video below for the hand expression technique.
Hand expressing is fantastic for the first few days breastfeeding. Lots of babies may be sleepy after labour and not want to feed. You can hand express colostrum onto a sterile plastic medicine teaspoon and let baby lap the milk from the spoon. You may need to do this for a few feeds. Once baby gets a taste for the milk they are soon eager to go on the breast for more.
Hand expression is also great for easing engorgement and preventing problems such as blocked ducts as you can empty your breast to the point of comfort.
2. Manual Breast Pump
A manual breast pump is one which requires no power supply and works by you manually pumping the squeeze handle one-handed. These pumps are often inexpensive and very portable as most are small enough to fit into a small handbag. These pumps are a great option for mums who very rarely pump and who are not planning on returning to work whilst breastfeeding.
3. Electric Breast Pump
If you are planning to pump at least once daily then it is highly recommended you buy an Electric breast pump. If your baby is in special care then you may want to think about hiring a hospital grade breast pump such as the Medela Symphony. You can also buy personal use electric pumps which range can accommodate the occasional pump right up to exclusively pumping. These pumps are particularly great if you need a long term expressing option for situations such as returning to work. Check out our guide on how to find the best breast pump for your needs.
Expressing Milk Tips
You may want your midwife or breastfeeding support worker to demonstrate how to set up and use a breast pump. Having someone who regularly works with the equipment or just have a non-sleep deprived pair of eyes read the user manual can be a god send.
When you start using an electric breast pump, experiment with the different speed and suction settings. The perfect setting for you will be the highest rate you can pump at with it whist maintaining comfort. Do not fall into the trap that the highest setting will provide the most milk. If you are uncomfortable when expressing this will hinder your milk yield. My advice would be to turn the pump up until the point it feels uncomfortable. Then turn it down a notch or two and this will be your expressing sweet spot.
Your nipples should move easily in and out of the flange without rubbing against the sides. Some brands design different sized flanges to increase comfort for the larger and smaller chested ladies.
If you have sensitive nipples when pumping you may want to use a specifically formulated breastfeeding cream to act as a barrier.
Once you’ve expressed your milk you must remember to clean and sterilise the collection bottle and pump parts before the next use. Most bottles, teats, flanges and tubing will be suitable for microwave sterilisation which speeds up to process.