Expressing breastmilk, just like breastfeeding can take a little while to get to grips with. Many mums choose to express occasionally so their partner can take part in feeding baby. While others express regularly, for example mums returning to work part-time, and others decide to express exclusively, this could be to feed a baby in NICU, feed multiples or return to full-time work.
The world of parenting is completely new, it takes time to learn and lots of practice to breastfeed and/or express comfortably and efficiently. It is important to remember that you’re doing the absolute best for your baby, giving them the best start in life, regardless of whether you choose to breastfeed or express.
There is a plethora of advice out there on breastfeeding but when it comes to expressing breast milk, parents often find that information isn’t as accessible. We know it is not easy and there can be challenges, so here are some helpful tips to consider when expressing breastmilk:
- Patience is key.
Wait until you and your baby have established breastfeeding and milk production (about 4-6 weeks) if you want to express for your partner to feed baby. It is important that you and baby get to grips with breastfeeding first of all before introducing expressing.
As discussed, if you find that your baby isn’t feeding well or you can’t breastfeed for medical reasons, you can exclusively express from birth to support your milk production. It is best to get advice and support from your health professional to help you through these challenges.
- Breast Pumps
It may take your body a little bit of time to get used to your breast pump, so don’t worry if your first expressing session isn’t as fruitful as you imagine. Like everything, you will get used to it.
Choosing a breast pump can be overwhelming, the most important thing to consider is how often you will be pumping during your feeding journey. If you plan to express very occasionally, then a manual breast pump will be fine. If you plan to express on a frequent basis, a few times a week, then an electric breast pump will be best. However, if you will be looking to express on a daily basis or exclusively, a double electric breast pump is a worthwhile investment, helping you to pump efficiently and save time.
Have everything you need to hand before you start an expressing session: your book, phone, boxset, cup of tea, water, biscuits. Try and choose a time when baby is settled so you can relax and not worry. Use your expressing time as an opportunity to enjoy a peaceful half an hour.
Try and distract yourself, apprehension can inhibit milk flow so phone your friend or read the next page, or chapter of your book – it will help.
Find a time to express when you know your baby is most settled between feeds. This can be trial and error but you will get there – many mums find mid-morning to mid-afternoon to be best.
- Express while breastfeeding
To begin with, it might help to express from the left breast whilst you feed from the right, or vice versa. The skin to skin contact and act of baby feeding will stimulate the milk letdown helping more milk to flow from the expressing breast.
- Expressing away from baby
If you are expressing away from your baby, take a photo or an item of their worn clothing with you to smell, anything that reminds you of them. This will make it easier and help with the let-down.
- Remember your body works with you
Remember your body is very clever and works with you to ensure that baby will always have enough milk. Expressing milk will not affect your supply, or use up milk for later feeds!
- Single pumping
When you pump one breast at a time, switch from one side to the other several times.
Sadly, we don’t mean that five-star spa massage… Try massaging your breasts before and occasionally, during pumping sessions, this can help to encourage your let-down and milk flow.
Once you have expressed your milk, you can store it in the fridge for 3-5 days or in the freezer for 12 months. Once removed from the freezer use within 24 hours.
Make sure you use all of your breast milk in chronological order, a labelling system can help you to decipher which to use first. This is a great job to give to your partner to help them feel involved in the feeding process.
For more information, expert advice and top tips on breastfeeding and expressing, you can visit the Medela website. To speak to Sioned Hilton and get your breastfeeding questions answered, visit Medela’s weekly Breastfeeding Café, every Tuesday, live on Facebook.
Article by Sioned Hilton, Medela UK’s Education Manager and in-house Lactation Consultant