Expressing Breast Milk | Introduction
Expressing breast milk is the process of extracting milk from your nipples in any way other than by breastfeeding directly to your baby. Expressing breast milk and feeding your baby with a bottle is the most natural way to feed your baby outside of breastfeeding. This is especially true when feeding with natural bottles like mimijumi baby bottles. These days expressing breast milk is usually done with a manual hand pump or electric pump, but is often still done by hand. Below we have given you some helpful tips and information about all 3 methods of expressing breast milk, and we hope you find them useful!
NB: Because you get handy instruction manuals with your manual pumps or electric pumps, we have focused on hand expressing. So you can make these your new instructions for expressing breast milk by hand!
Expressing Breast Milk | How It Works
Breast milk is stored in sacs in your breasts called alveoli. When the milk is released out of these sacs, it is called the ‘let-down’. After a mum has ‘let-down’, the milk travels to the nipple through the breast via milk ducts. Soon after your baby is born your body will let-down, which starts the process of producing the good flow of milk. The let-down starts when the nipples are stimulated, usually by a baby suckling on them, but can also be triggered by massaging the breasts and expressing. Without getting too scientific, when the nipples are stimulated the brain releases a hormone called oxytocin which causes the alveoli to release the milk, which flows through the ducts and out the nipple!
Expressing Breast Milk | How To Do It
As discussed above, there are 3 ways of expressing breast milk. So here’s a handy guide on doing all three!
Expressing Breast Milk By Hand
Below is a step-by-step guide on expressing breast milk by hand. There are a few ways of doing it, so this is a simple guide that is most commonly used:
- Wash your hands well with anti-bacterial soap before your start expressing breast milk.
- Find a bottle with a wide mouth to squeeze the milk into. Make sure the bottles have been sterilised that you are expressing breast milk into.
- Some mums get a warm towel and lay it on their breasts to encourage the let-down. Massaging your breasts is also not uncommon to start the let-down. To massage them, squeeze your breasts and start massaging them in a rolling motion. These techniques are usually only used for the first few times when your body is still learning to let-down.
- Take a seat and get comfortable.
- Possibly the most important tip with expressing breast milk and breastfeeding is to relax your mind and body. If you’re having trouble, it may be because you are stressed or anxious. When your body is up tight your alveoli will not release the milk and the process just won’t happen. So relax! Put the T.V on something calming, some nice soothing music maybe, talk to your baby if they are there, whatever makes you relaxed!
- Take your breast in one hand and hold the bottle in the other hand. The way you hold your breast is like this: 1) Cup the breast with your thumb and index finger on the opposite sides of the areola. Your hand should form a ‘C’ around your nipple. Your thumb should be on top; 2) Don’t actually hold the nipple because this won’t work. The reason why is because the milk ducts are quite a fair way back on your breast. Sometimes cupping a ‘C’ around the edge of the areola is far enough back and some mum’s with larger areola will need to hold inside the areola for expressing breast milk by hand.
- Squeeze your index finger and thumb together and hold it for a couple of seconds. Squeezing rapidly won’t work for you. You need to squeeze slowly, like you’re massaging your breast. Squeeze in and out several times until you see some droplets of milk or colostrum (fore milk or first milk) forming on your nipple. It can take a minute or two to get the milk flowing, so be patient and try to relax. If you stick with it, it will happen! If you find it too time consuming you may choose to purchase a manual or electro pump.
- Move your fingers and hand around on your breast to help stimulate other areas. Try the massaging and warm towel techniques mentioned above as well if you are having trouble. You can even try to stand up and lean forward and gently shake them to start the let-down.
- Think of the ducts as being all over your breasts. So when the flow decreases to a dribble, you can move your hand into another part of your breast to capture more milk. You’ll know when you are out of breast milk because it will stop flowing, but sometimes it would have just exhausted one section of your breast. So try grabbing a different section of your breast and see if any more comes out before you change breasts!
Some Do’s, Don’ts and Other Notes on Expressing Breast Milk by Hand
- Expressing breast milk by hand is a decent hand exercise! So if your fingers, hands or breasts start to hurt, just swap them over.
- Some people recommend you express every time you feed your baby. But this can be quite demanding and most mums can do it much less often than that. There’s no magic number, but make sure you do it regularly to keep your breasts producing milk. Your breasts will produce about 400mls in the first week, than up to 700mls after a couple of weeks. This allows you to stock up on breast milk in advance so you don’t have to express EVERY feed if you’re not feeling up to it or is impractical. You can store your expressed breast milk in the freezer, but make sure you do it properly.
- Don’t slide your fingers over your skin too much while you’re expressing breast milk. This can irritate your skin and cause damage to your breast.
- After you have been expressing breast milk for a while the milk will start squirting out of your breast! Don’t panic, this means you’re getting good at it! You can hold the nipple closer into the bottle or try a bigger container if you find it’s going all over the living room!
Expressing Breast Milk With Hand-Held And Electric Pumps
Expressing breast milk with hand and electric pumps are a faster and more effective way about expressing breast milk these days. The device you buy will come with instructions, so follow them on how to do it. Here’s some more handy tips on using these devices to keep in mind:
- Firstly, choose a pump that’s right for you. Most pumps on the market these days are pretty well designed, so you shouldn’t have any dramas if you buy them from a reputable dealer or retailer. But do your ‘own due diligence. It should be comfortable and ‘you-friendly’;
- Always sterilise all the equipment that comes in contact with the milk before expressing breast milk;
- Always use a sterilised bottle with a wide mouth to capture the milk in;
- Always read the instructions that come with whichever device you use;
- Never use these devices if your nipples are cracked or bleeding;
- Never use them if you have oedematous. Oedematous is when you have swollen areas in your breasts such as your areola, and you should consult you’re doctor immediately if you have this or mastitis;
- Always get the milk flowing by massaging them and hand expressing breast milk first until you see the milk at the nipples;
- Always Store the breast milk properly in the freezer and for the suggested time.
- If you did not want to buy a breast pump, you can hire them from a few places, including: breastpumphire.com.au
We hope you enjoyed this page on expressing breast milk! If you’re done, please leave us your own tips on expressing breast milk in the comments section below, otherwise please continue on with our Bottle Feeding Bible
Although the information on this page includes well thought-out, educated opinions, and all care has been taken putting it together, it is intended to be a guide only, and is NOT intended to be medical or other professional advice. The information contained herein is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, and you should always consult your doctor or other healthcare professional on all issues relating to you, your baby or otherwise. We, any of our related entities, the author, or any other person or entity associated with the creation of this page or website does not accept any liability for any loss of any nature whatsoever arising out of them, and none of those parties shall be held liable to any extent whatsoever for any such loss.