Expressing breast milk

Expressing breast milk is usually done when you need to provide some milk for your baby at a time when you’re not going to be around to feed him. You may also choose to express when your breasts feel engorged and uncomfortable.

To hand-express:

Expressing by hand costs nothing and you don’t need any equipment – it’s more work but by expressing by hand you will empty your breasts more completely than using a breast pump.

  • Wash your hands thoroughly and then dry.
  • Be prepared with a sterile container that you can directly express into.
  • Gently begin to massage your breast from the breast bone and under your arm down towards your nipple.
  • Place the end of your forefinger and thumb on opposite sides of your areola.
  • Gently squeeze together, let go and repeat. Use long massaging strokes as you squeeze (it may help – or not! – to visualise milking a cow)
  • Gradually work your way around the breast by changing the position of your expressing hand.
  • You may find that you need to swap hands to adequately express the part of the breast that is on the outside of your body.
  • It may take a minute or two before you start to express milk, particularly if you have difficulty getting a let-down when expressing.

To express with a pump:

  • Wash your hands thoroughly and then dry.
  • Using one hand, gently massage your breasts, working your way towards the nipple.
  • Put the pump to your breast, making sure that your nipple is in the centre of the cup.
  • Start pumping in a steady rhythmic motion.
  • If you are using an electric pump, start with the speed on low and then slowly adjust it to a speed that you are comfortable with.
  • Some electric pumps allow you to express both breasts at once which makes the process twice as fast.

How often should I express and how much should I get for my labours?

  • Generally, a baby of 1 to 3 months will drink between 100 to 180 ml at each feed, so you need to aim to have approximately this much for each feed that you’re going to be away from your baby.
  • To build up a supply of expressed milk, try expressing after you’ve done your morning breastfeed as this is the time when it’s most likely that you’ll have extra milk available.
  • Don’t try to express after every feed – you’ll end up feeling like a milk machine and as the day progresses you’ll find that you’ll have less milk to spare. By evening, you may not be able to express anything at all – which is completely normal.
  • If you’re only going to be gone for a couple of hours, don’t be too concerned if you don’t have enough expressed milk – your baby’s caregiver can offer what you have as well as cool, boiled water; and when you return your baby will be very pleased to see you!
  • You can add made up formula to your bottle of expressed milk if you don’t have enough expressed milk to offer.



This article was written by Ella Walsh for Kidspot.

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