Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Tips on expressing breast milk

*Please note this is a very niche post for those interested in how to use an electric breast pump and is not necessarily recommended to anyone not interested in my boobs*

I thought it might be handy to share some tips on how to successfully use an electric breast pump as I think most people who have had a go would agree that it is pretty hard work! Although I was originally quite doom and gloom about how much breast milk I could make just expressing with a machine (as my baby just cannot attach successfully) I have been producing about five times more than I did with my first bub and am now feeling pretty proud that I can produce most of what my new baby needs (about 500 mls per day).

I've learnt quite a lot about what works for me and it seems very much at odds at some other advice that I found in books and on the net so here are my five key points about what has worked for me in the hope that it might be handy for others:

1. Don't express too often and wear yourself out - most advice that I've read suggests that you should express as many times as is physically possible to keep your supply up. What I have found is that I get about the same amount of milk whether I express 8 times a day or 4 times a day. The only difference is that I have spent twice as much time at the pump if I go eight times and I feel super grumpy about how little I can get done. My boobs also tend to get pretty sore if I am expressing too often.

2. Massage, massage, massage - it doesn't take long to work out where all the milk ducts are and it is really worth giving them a good massage throughout the time you are expressing as it seems to make a huge difference to what you get out. It also helps to avoid getting close to mastitis - you certainly know when you get a hot, sore patch in your boobs and it is really important to get the milk flowing.

3. Make sure you are all set up - I find that I am much more willing to spend a full 20 minutes or so expressing if I have something to read/watch and some water and the baby is all set up either sleeping or keeping busy. Getting the milk out takes time so it is worth finding ways not to make the time tolerable!

4. Make sure you are not racing - a trap that I sometimes fall into is trying to express some milk before someone comes around or before I need to leave the house. When I do this I tend to only make a little bit and then feel really uncomfortable until I can pump again. It is better to try and allow more time than you need and not have to panic about how long it takes for the milk to get flowing.

5. Don't worry about it - while the advice you get given as a new mum is the very blunt "breast is best", sometimes it is just not going to happen. This time round I decided from the start that I would just express as much as I could and whatever would be would be. This has worked much better for me than last time around when I saw all the lactaction consultants and took all the supplements that are meant to increase your milk supply. I will always wonder whether all that worrying played a part in my supply not coming in but either way, it was not good for my state of mind and just got in the way of me enjoying the new baby.

I am totally aware that this advice just relates to my experience of expressing full time and may not work if you are just trying to express a bottle or two around breast-feeding. If you need more info about expressing and storing breast milk a couple of useful and far more comprehensive sites are:


Good luck!

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