Expert tips by Lynne-McKensey Hall IBCLC (International Board Certified Lactation Consultant) and Baby Hints & Tips Breastfeeding Expert
I didn’t know how to express and I didn’t know how to use the “best pump in the shop” that I bought. Moreover, I needed advice and I didn’t know where to find it. In Expressing, the fourth booklet in my recently released Breastfeeding and Baby Matters series, you’ll find all the hints and tips I wish I had known about. Essentially, everything you need to know about expressing breast milk for storage and the occasional bottle feed is in here. The information in this booklet is also useful for mothers with pre-term babies and anyone wanting to provide expressed breast milk in preference to breastfeeding.
It takes about three weeks for your breast milk supply to establish and for you and your baby to get into a feeding rhythm. For this reason, I think it’s worth waiting until you have established a feeding pattern before expressing, especially if you have no particular reason for doing so.
Usually mothers want to express so their partners can bottle feed to ‘bond’ with their babies. It’s useful to know that bathing, changing a nappy, nursing or carrying your baby in a sling provides wonderful bonding opportunities for your partner and baby without you needing to express for a bottle.
For some mothers, expressing is a very effective way of stimulating and maintaining their milk supply (if necessary). It provides feeding options when some mothers can’t or don’t want to breastfeed for whatever reason. The breast pump you choose is based on personal choice and your specific needs.
If you plan to return to work and express, a double pump may be easier and more convenient than one suggested for occasional use. Join mothers’ groups online for suggestions and ideas about the different breast pumps on the market.
Expressing may take some practise until you feel confident with your pump and the timing of your expressing. Planning and expressing a few days ahead of any feed for which you want to provide a bottle of expressed milk will make it easier and less stressful for you.
Expressing is not a ‘must-do’. Many mothers don’t want or need to express but feel obliged to use a pump, especially if friends have given them one. If you’re not using it and don’t feel like you ever will, while it might be tricky, it’s better to tell them you want to swap the pump for something you will use regularly rather than having something you will never use.
I applaud any mother who prefers to express breast milk in preference to breastfeeding or giving her baby formula. The wonderful thing about breastfeeding and expressing are the number of options available for providing breast milk to your baby.
I think expressing is a learned skill and I believe you have to ‘love your pump’ and get into the zone to get the oxytocin and milk flowing but it’s a skill you can become very good at with a little practise and patience. Expressing provides further options and choices for providing breast milk to your baby. Congratulations for wanting to do so and good luck!
‘Expressing’ is part of an eight part book series Breastfeeding and Baby Matters by Lynne-McKensey Hall IBCLC.
Lynne-McKensey Hall has over thirty years’ experience in nursing, midwifery, nurse education and lactation management. She now works as an IBCLC in her private practice Better Beginnings in Sydney, Australia. Lynne has just released Breastfeeding & Baby Matters, a series of eight booklets available from Better Beginnings. She is also available for phone 0419 245 966 and Skype consultations. To see all of Lynne’s articles, click here.