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The art of breast milk expression

By Sister Lilian for Baby City

Manual expression of breast milk in the early days of life has been shown to be as, if not more, effective than using a a pump, and less inclined to hurt sensitive breast tissue. And yet, many women end up needing to store breast milk on a regular basis to achieve their dream of exclusive breastfeeding, or at the very least, giving as much of their milk as possible to Baby – especially after going back to work, or if their baby needs the NICU after birth. So, while breast pumps are fine for occasional expressing, try and feed baby directly as often as possible – it will even make pumping your milk easier in time, should you need to do so!

If using a pump is on the cards for you, invest in a good quality electric breast pump if you need to express often. Preferably choose one that has different speed settings, is gentle on your breasts, and imitates Baby’s natural breastfeeding rhythms. Manual pumps and newer ones that almost withdraw milk from your breast hands-free, are very useful for the odd session of expressing.

Remember, pumps should not be obtained second hand or shared – certainly not the parts through which milk flows! All these parts of a breast pump must be washed and sterilised after use too.

Breast milk pumping tips:
• Warm the cup of the pump to promote milk flow
• Moisten your areola and the inside rim of the pump funnel with a bit of water or breast milk before pumping – this creates better suction.
• Try using the pump at different angles to your breast, as that will ensure better drainage of milk from all areas.
• Don’t use full suction power immediately; rather build it up gradually as your milk starts flowing.

Breast milk expression FAQ
Q. When should I start pumping for the first time?
A. Perhaps your maternity leave is up and you need to return to work, your nipples need a little time to heal because Baby was latching incorrectly, or you’d like a ‘back-up plan’ for when you’re not available to feed Baby… Whatever your reason, express a while before you’ll need the milk so that you can build up a ‘bank’.

Q. How do I store pumped breast milk?
A. You can safely store expressed breast milk in the fridge for 24 hours and in the freezer for three months. Store 50–100ml of your breast milk in bottles, disposable breast milk bags or covered ice trays. To thaw, place the container of frozen milk in a jug of boiling water. Shake gently or stir it well to mix properly, and make sure the breast milk is pleasantly warm.

If you’re struggling to breastfeed or express, contact the La Leche League in your area or book an appointment with a lactation consultant for hands on advice and support.

September 4, 2017







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