Expressing breast milk can supplement your feeding regime when you need to build your milk supply. It is also helpful when you can’t be with your baby (like when you have to return to work), when you want help with feeding (let dad take a shot at feeding too), or just in case you missed a feed (say, in the event your baby wanted to sleep longer).
If you are experiencing low milk supply, the extra simulation from a breast pump will help you increase your supply and maintain it. Breast pumps try to mimic the sucking pattern of babies, ensuring optimal milk flow and comfort.
Don’t even worry about not having enough milk for the next feed. Remember supply equates to demand. The more milk you produce, the more you will make.
Expressing like breastfeeding, is a skill learned over time. It will feel weird and quite painful at first, but you will eventually improve and gain confidence. Practice makes perfect!
Try to lean forward to help the milk flow. Also have a towel and drink beside you.
Expressing with a pump
Choose a good quality pump. There are several options to think about. Depending on your preference and budget, you can opt for a manual or an electric pump.
Manual pumps are easy to use. No need for batteries or outlets. You also control the way you use the pump using your hand.
If you will be returning to work soon, I would recommend an electric pump. You have a choice of a single or double pump.
Double pumping (simultaneous breast pumping) is twice as fast as single pumping to get the same amount of milk. Your session may be shorter, but it is heavier on the pocket. If budget is not an issue, go for it. Otherwise, most would go for a single pump.
As you start off, choose a time when your breasts are relatively full or when your baby is happy with just one breast during a feed.
Expressing by hand
Even if this is the cheapest and easiest way to express milk, this didn’t really work for me since I didn’t have that much patience. I personally preferred to go for a breast pump. But there are moms who do this, so I suggest that you go for it. Who knows, it might work for you.
Before you go ahead, have a warm shower or place warm, wet towels on your breasts to help with the flow. Then, gently massage down the nipples.
Place a towel under your breast and hold a sterilised plastic container with a wide opening in one hand to catch the milk. Hold the outer edge of your nipple with your thumb and forefinger, and gently squeeze your breast inwards. Continue until the milk flow stops.
After expressing, rinse your pump with cold water, wash in hot soapy water, rinse again, and leave to drain.
Don’t forget to sterilise your equipment before use.
I like the Milton method of cold sterilisation. Just use 2 Milton anti-bacterial tablets to make 4L of solution. All it takes it 15 minutes. No need to boil, steam, or rinse. The sterile solution is reusable for 24 hours.
I also like the Medela Quick Clean Micro-Steam bags. After cleaning, put it in the microwave with some water, and it only take 3 minutes.
Storing breast milk
Breast milk can be stored in sterile plastic containers or sterile plastic bags.
Freshly expressed breast milk can stay 3-5 days in the centre-back of the fridge where its the coldest. If you won’t use it, freeze it right away or not more than two days.
Don’t fill the bottle more than 3/4 full before freezing. Allow space for expansion. And if you are using sterile plastic bags, lay it flat in the freezer. You can save on space this way as you continue to collect milk.
Label the container with the volume of milk collected, date, and time. Use the oldest one first.
Frozen milk keeps 2 weeks in the freezer compartment of the fridge, 3 months in the freezer of a 2-door fridge, and it can last 6-12 months in deep freeze.
Don’t defrost or heat breast milk in a microwave. Thaw frozen milk in the fridge (milk will last for 24 hours) or by letting it sit in a container with warm water until the milk is at body temperature (milk will last for 4 hours).
Also, please never re-freeze breast milk.
Here’s one more tip, express after each feed to build up supply. Put the expressed milk in the fridge as soon as possible. You can continue to add to the container throughout the day, as long as you put it back right away in the fridge every time. After 24 hours, freeze what you have collected.