A Quick Guide To Help You When Expressing Your Breast Milk
We are fortunate to be able to have multiple ways to feed our babies, some women will chose to breast feed, others to bottle feed. Whether you choose to use formula or expressed breast milk (or a combination of the two) there is absolutely no wrong way to feed your baby. Remember, fed is best.
This post will give some helpful tips for those Mum’s that are looking to fully express their breast milk.
If you plan to express from day one its important that you hand express as soon as possible after your baby is born – note: your midwives should help you with this and teach you for when your discharged home. Initially you will just get colostrum, but don’t worry about its small volumes, its magical stuff and should be plenty for your baby. You should aim to continue to hand express for roughly 48 hours, following the guide and tips below, or until your milk has come in.
If you are fully expressing, its important that you express at least 8 times in 24 hours (aiming for 10-12 times if possible). By expressing this amount you are mimicking a baby’s feeding routine. When a baby feeds they are also stimulating the breasts to produce more milk for the next feed, so therefore you can see why its important to express so much!
It is also important that you express between the early hours of 02:00 am and 04:00 am – this is due to the milk producing hormone; prolactin. This hormone is at its most effective during these times, and by expressing you are stimulating the hormone, therefore increasing your milk supply. If your milk supply has reduced and you have stopped the overnight expressing, then restart expressing overnight, that should help.
As a tip, to fit in all that expressing into an already extremely busy day, try to express 2-3 hourly during the day time (some mum’s might find it easier to have a very structured routine; every 2.5 hours on the dot, others find a more relaxed method works for them). And then express before bed, overnight and as soon as you get up. That should mean you achieve the minimum of 8. If you are feeling like you can squeeze a few more in then that’s great!
There are some great apps out there that allow you to record your expressing times and volumes, some will even plot a graph for you to show how your supply is increasing on a daily basis.
Top tips to help:
- Expressing can feel very unnatural and mechanical and this may affect your letdown. Try expressing near your baby, or use photos and their baby blankets to help trigger your let down.
- Before expressing massage and stroke the breast towards the nipple to warm and stimulate – this will mimic what your baby does when he/she nurses.
- Relax and sit comfortably.
- Double pump if you can (it saves lots of time).
- Make sure the breast shield is the right size, if its too tight or too small, it might affect your supply. (we all come in different shapes and sizes, and the one in the packet might not fit correctly, a lot of companies to sell other sizes).
- If your pump has a button to increase suction, remember that more suction doesn’t always mean increased supply. If your in pain you wont produce milk. So start with a high suction setting but reduce immediately and stop when your comfortable. That way you have maximum suction that you can tolerate.
Here is a list of reasons for reduced supply:
- Not expressing enough.
- Not expressing overnight.
- Not drinking enough fluids (if your dehydrated your body may struggle to produce the extra fluid to give to your baby).
- Stress (having a newborn can be a stressful time, and expressing milk and worrying over supply can heighten this stress, but just remember that the milk will come if you do all of the above, supply does really vary in women).
If you have done all of the above its important to seek help early and if you need to speak to someone for help or guidance, you can speak to your midwife, health visitor or GP. Or, there are lots of lactation consultants that will be able to help and guide you through the process. Just Google one to find one in your area.