The busy mum’s guide to expressing breastmilk

Posted in Breastfeeding.

So, you’ve decided to express! Just like breastfeeding it can take a bit of practise to get the hang of expressing breastmilk – and depending on why you’ve decided to express, there are different routines and products that can help you on the journey. 

When would I need to consider expressing breastmilk?

This is a great question to ask yourself if you are thinking about whether or not you need to consider expressing milk. After all, if you’re breastfeeding successfully, adding bottles to your daily routine can seem like extra work you can live without.

Aside from the need to keep bottles and feeding equipment sterilised, you need to ensure that the milk you express is appropriately stored and, just like the milk you buy at the shops, drunk before its use-by date is up!

Nevertheless, there are plenty of good reasons to express breastmilk:

Occasional expressing

Reasons to consider occasional expressing may include:

  • Feeding is a special time to bond with baby. Share the love with friends and family and leave a bottle of expressed breast milk with them to enjoy some ‘me’ time, go to the gym, an appointment or see some friends.
  • Sleep deprivation! Perhaps you’d like your partner to do a night time feed occasionally so you can experience more than two hours of sleep in one hit.
  • You’ve got a grazed or, worse, cracked nipple. It can be agony to feed with nipple damage, but you need to keep feeding your baby and emptying the breast, or you’ll risk mastitis and a drop in your milk supply. It will still hurt to express from a damaged nipple, but it will be gentler on the breast than having your baby latch on, so your nipple might heal more quickly. Just make sure that you keep an eye on your supply in that breast if your baby doesn’t feed from that side for a while.
  • You’re taking medication that’s not safe for breastfeeding mums. In this case, for the duration of the medication you’ll need to “pump and dump” (throw out the milk) –  and expressing will be needed to keep your supply up.

If you’re only expressing occasionally, you might prefer to either express by hand – which takes a bit to get the hang of! – or with a manual pump. Manual pumps have the advantage of being significantly cheaper than electric pumps and they are usually more compact too. Expressing manually means you can do it anywhere at any time, without the need for a powerpoint! You’ll still need to think about refrigeration for the milk you produce though.

Moreover, mums who don’t express regularly sometimes feel more comfortable with a manual pump because you maintain complete control over the level of suction all the time and you can increase it very gently.

Regular expressing

It’s not just working mums who might need to express breastmilk more regularly – there are lots of reasons why regular expressing might be on the cards for you. Some of them include:

  • Need to increase your milk supply. The first port of call is to simply feed your baby more often, but if that’s not doing the trick on its own, then the next step is to express more feeds during the day. You don’t need to worry that you’ll run out of milk – in fact, the reverse is true – the more you feed or express, the more milk you’ll produce.
  • Dealing with a premature baby or a baby with some longer term feeding issues. Perhaps for a time your baby is unable to feed independently but you’d still like to give them breastmilk. Regular expressing is the way to do this.

Although there’s no reason why you can’t express more regularly by hand or with a manual pump, most mums who need to express regularly find that it’s more convenient and quicker to express these feeds with an electric pump. There are plenty to choose from, but the best of them are the ones that have a two-phase suction to more closely imitate the way that your baby milks the breast. 

A couple of other things to remember about expressing – even if you don’t seem to be able to get much milk while expressing, it’s not necessarily an indication of how much milk your body is producing. Nothing milks the breast as efficiently as a baby! Expressing milk efficiently takes practise, relaxation and a bit of a routine – but if you stick at it, and keep thinking about your baby’s cute little face, you’ll be a pro in no time. Good luck!


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