Being able to express breastmilk can bring you a little bit of freedom when looking after an infant. Whether it is so that you can get someone else to feed your baby so that you can have a break or get stuff done, or to give your boobs some respite during those periods where your little one seems to eat all day, giving your baby expressed breastmilk ensures that they have the best source of nourishment possible.
Now, I know there’s a lot of debate around the “breast is best” campaign. It is not my intention to judge or dishearten anyone who does not breastfeed – sometimes breastfeeding is not possible for a variety of reasons, or some mothers are unable to express enough milk for their babies. There is nothing wrong with feeding your baby formula or appropriate milk alternatives, just make sure you are following your feeding specialist’s advice in order to best nourish your baby. This post is simply intended as encouragement to those who do wish to feed their babies breastmilk using a bottle.
- Drink plenty of water! Keeping yourself hydrated will assist in your continued milk supply.
- Select an appropriate pump. There are a variety of manual and electric breast pumps available (including small devices and hospital grade equipment), so have a think about how frequently you wish to express and which sort of pump would be most suitable for you.
- Manual expressing is tricky. When my son was born he had a bit of trouble latching, and the midwives helped me express a few millilitres of colostrum to feed him with a syringe on those first couple of days. It isn’t easy, so get some advice from your midwife or lactation specialist.
- Build up a supply. If you want to express multiple times a day, be aware that it will take a few days to build up a supply at the times that you express. This means you should express at roughly the same times each day to make sure you’re getting the most out of your milk supply.
- Express when you wake up. Whether you express once a day or more the best time to get the most milk is after you wake up. Of course, this will depend on how much your baby eats in their first feed; but, if possible, wake up before your baby so that you can express enough milk to use for a later feed. You can still feed your baby after expressing – your breasts are continuously producing milk and when your baby suckles more milk comes even though you just emptied your breasts.
- One boob produces more milk. Just like one of your boobs may be slightly larger than the other, you might find that one makes more milk than the other. Work out which one it is, and express from this side after you wake up and feed your baby from the other side (your baby’s sucking power is usually much more effective than a pump, so they’ll be able to get more milk from your breast than you’ll be able to express). It is usually recommended that you alternate breasts at each feed as long as your baby has emptied the breast at the previous feed (otherwise you should first offer the breast they didn’t empty the last time). I do this during the day; however, a trick that works for me is to express from the boob that produces more milk overnight whether or not I’m due to feed from that side. This ensures that I’ll always fill a 150mL bottle, which is how much it takes to satisfy my little man for one feed (you may make more or less than this, everyone is different!). It probably isn’t a good idea to do this until your milk supply has properly settled several weeks after giving birth; and if you feel any discomfort at all, don’t do this.
I hope these tips are useful. They are based both on advice I’ve received from the midwives at the hospital after I gave birth and from my lactation specialist, as well as my own experience expressing breastmilk. If you have any other tips, I’d love to hear them!
Mini Mummi Blogger 🌺