Expressing {while still breast feeding}

Expressing breast milk with electric breast pump by Milkbar New Zealand

There may be a variety of reasons to why you need to express such as preference, topping up, to increase supply, returning to work or going out and what a lot of people don't know is that it can takes time & practise for it to work while your brain learns to release the hormones responsible for producing breast milk. Breastfeeding as you know {expressing too} is very complex and for the purpose of this piece we're referring to expressing while breastfeeding, we're not advising on how to exclusively express!

When should you express?

If you've never expressed before try expressing at the first morning feed of the day, feed your baby on one side and then express from the other side. Do this for a few days until you start to get a good result. Alternatively pump after any breastfeed - doing this at the same time of the day will help communicate to your body to produce more milk.

How long should you express for?

Aim to pump for 15 - 20 minutes or until the milk flow stops or slows down. Swap breasts frequently, approximately 2 - 3 times each expressing episode is recommended. Remember, your baby is best at extracting your milk so don't feel disheartened if the volumes are less than you expect. Everyone responds differently to the pump.

Getting a let down!

The let down reflex is an important part of breastfeeding, it starts the milk flowing when your baby feeds. It is your breasts telling your brain it’s feed time, the brain releases oxytocin & then milk starts to flow. Some mothers might never feel the let-down & some will feel it less as time goes by but this doesn’t mean it is not taking place. It can be affected by stress, pain & tiredness but once breastfeeding is established it requires no thought. Let-down is like a cue just before you nurse & it is best described as a tingling feeling & this can be quite strong kinda like pins & needles. You’ll notice a change in your baby’s sucking pattern as the milk begins to flow - it will go from small shallow sucks to stronger, slower sucks. Milk will more than likely drip from the opposite breast.

Pumping works best when you are relaxed. Watching the bottle fill {try covering it with a sock} or forcing yourself to pump when you don't want to often produces less milk. The mind has great power over supply. Instead try expressing while watching your favourite show, listening to relaxing music or cooing and singing with your baby.

How to express breast milk with a breast pump?

  1. Get yourself relaxed and comfortable position - what ever works best for you
  2. Consider some breast massage or warm compress before you start, before you start this can help improve your let-down reflex and get the breast milk flowing
  3. Put the suction cup of the pump {manual or electric} directly over your breast with your nipple in the centre
  4. If using a manual breast pump squeeze the pump handle gently and rhythmically – you might see only drops of milk until your let-down occurs then the milk will begin to spray & you can increase the speed at which you pump.
  5. If using an electric breast pump start with the stimulation mode before moving to the low suction mode and gradually increasing it to a level that’s
  6. Pump for 15 - 20 minutes or until your milk stops flowing
  7. Store what breast milk you’ve pumped {well done you!} into a bottle or bag and refrigerate it. If you do some more pumping later in the day wait for the new milk to cool {or refrigerate it for 30-60 minutes}. Once it’s cool, you add it to the other container of refrigerated milk

Storing breastmilk

It's a good idea in to reusable storage bags and in small amounts to avoid any waste

  • Room temperature - for 4 hours, cover containers and keep them as cool as possible
  • Refrigerated {2-4 degrees} - for 48 hours, stored in the lower half of the fridge towards the back
  • Freezer box - 2 weeks, store milk toward the back of the freezer, where the temperature is most constant
  • Seperate fridge/freezer - 3 to 6 months, store milk toward the back of the freezer, where the temperature is most constant.
  • Deep freeze - 6 to 12 months, store milk toward the back of the freezer, where the temperature is most constant

Written by Renata Lardelli - owner of Little Mash Boutique but also a registered and practicing Nurse & Midwife. Image used with permission, thanks @amymrswhite


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