By Hannah Schenker with Express The Best
Expressing breastmilk is something that comes in handy for many mothers. You may want to express milk if your breasts feel uncomfortably full, you will be away from baby for periods of time and someone else will feed them (ie, returning to work), your baby isn’t feeding well from your breast (due to something like cleft lip or palate), or your baby was born early and you need to get that milk flowing.
Using a breast pump is something that you need to learn – it’s not exactly something you automatically know how to do! Just as we are all completely individual and unique, so will our pumping journey be. Your anatomy, how and when your milk lets down – how you work, basically – are all things you will gradually learn about to be able to get the most from your breast pump.
Some ideas to help you find your own routine:
- Pumping is most effective when you are nice and relaxed, so do what works for you in order to feel as relaxed as you can. You could even try to see this time pumping as a break from your everyday stress, some quiet time to let everything drift away.
- Set yourself up for greatness by setting aside the same time every day for pumping, which will help your body adjust to the extra demand on your milk supply.
- Don’t rush – take your time. Feeling stressed (often a result of feeling rushed) will hamper your let-down. You could try deep breathing exercises and positive thinking is always useful to help you get into the right mindset, which in turn affects your body.
- Create a nice, private little nest for yourself with no distractions (obviously a toilet cubicle at work is completely the wrong environment!) Have everything you need ready and in easy reach.
Express the Best Tips for Success:
- Set your body up so that you can relax your shoulders down, which will help the milk release. Make sure your back and arms are well supported too.
- Remove any tight clothing or consider removing your top completely to give you free and unrestricted access to your breasts.
- Applying warm compresses to your breasts will enhance let-down and milk flow, which you can do before you express. This can be a warm wet flannel or a wheat pack.
- Massage your breasts before pumping to encourage the let-down reflex. Stimulating your let-down reflex is the key part of breast pumping. Massage can also help warm up the breast which will help with milk flow.
- Having your baby in the same room as you is ideal as it helps get the milk flowing. If they cannot be nearby, having a photo or video of them with you could help stimulate those hormones.
- Make sure you have the correct size breast shield for your breast (the part that connects to your breast/nipple).
- Hold the breast shield from your pump between your thumb and index finger, using your palm and other fingers to support your breast. This will help you get a good seal between your breast shield and breast. If the edges of the shield are pushed onto the breast tissue, this can cause blocked milk ducts.
- Start with low suction then increase to a comfortable suction. If you can free up your hands, you could apply some squeezing/massaging to your breasts to get more milk out – gently squeeze, then let go, then squeeze, then let go…
- Have a drink and healthy snack before and after you express, and have a drink nearby for during the pumping. Keeping well-nourished and hydrated is an essential key to maintaining milk supply. It is so very important not to go hungry or dehydrated during these breastfeeding years, especially when you need to boost supply. (See Express the Best Boosting Supply Tips HERE)
- It might seem impossible, but also try to get as much rest as possible.
See page 2 for how to increase your milk supply…