Express Yourself – if you want milk right now, let me show you how, express what you’ve got baby ready or not!
At some point during your breast feeding journey you may need to express. Women need or choose to express for a range of reasons. We often hear women say ‘I just can’t express’ or ‘I hardly get anything when I express’, hopefully the information in this blog will give you some hints, advice and encouragement to get the most out of your expressing. Yielding the best possible supply can at times be challenging and often it is just a matter of ‘tweaking’ your technique or the equipment you are using.
Some reasons you may need to express are:
- To increase your supply; maybe your baby has lost weight, maybe you have a medical condition that means your supply may be reduced or maybe there is an obstetric reason your supply may be slightly reduced for example; if you lost a lot of blood after the birth.
- To provide milk for your baby if it is in special or neonatal intensive care units. Or sometimes for babies who are fasting for surgery or too sick to take oral fluids.
- Sometimes it may be you who requires surgery, a medical treatment or medications where it is advised that your baby will not be able to breast feed for a period of time. It is worth mentioning here that there are very few times where a baby can not still take breast milk whilst you are taking a medication. (Please see an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant in your area if you require more information).
- Or maybe you are returning to work and need to express milk for baby while you are away.
Having the correct technique is crucial for expressing.
- It is important to prepare the breast first; applying a warm compress or a heat pack to warm the breast and providing massaging helps to aid and assist the Milk Ejection Reflex or ‘let down’.
- Using a combination of hand and pump can also be beneficial. Your breasts need that skin on skin contact of your hands during expressing, whether this is providing massage whilst using the pump, performing reverse pressure softening or combining hand expressing while using a pump. The following is a link to some instructions on how to perform reverse pressure softening http://www.breastfeedinginc.ca/content.php?pagename=doc-EngRPS.
- Trying different pumps may also be required. It isn’t a one size/type fits all… different pumps work in different ways and all they work differently for different people.
- Ensure you have all the correct equipment and the correct size funnels for your nipple, this is one time when size does matter – bigger is better! If the nipple is constricted in a funnel too narrow this can cause friction to the nipple which in turn can cause many more issues, damage to the integrity of the skin, nipple thrush and more.
- Being relaxed and not putting too much pressure on yourself or the amount you produce is also important. If you need help and advice form a professional seek this out.
The following link shows a great YouTube video with lots of hints and tips to yield the best supply and how to maximise expressing. http://newborns.stanford.edu/Breastfeeding/MaxProduction.html
It is important to remember that your baby has the best technique to drain your breasts. The amount of milk you yield form any one expression is in no way indicative of the amount your baby is getting. So never be disheartened if you ‘only’ drain 20, 30, 40mls… instead think ‘yes I did it!’ Also worth noting is that the breasts work independently of each other, one may produce more than the other at any one time. However, women tend to have one ‘favourite’ breast but this is often the side that is most comfortable for feeding or it may appear to produce the most breast milk.
Please seek help with all your breastfeeding and lactation needs – this is important!
Midwife & International Board Certified Lactation Consultant