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Expressing Your Baby Milk

By: Rachel Newcombe - Updated: 23 Sep 2010 | comments*Discuss
Expressing Expressing Milk Baby Milk

When you’ve had a baby, there are all sorts of new skills to master and learning to express your own milk may be one of them. Whether you’re expressing milk regularly, or only on occasions, read on to discover our lowdown on baby milk expressing.

Expressing milk isn’t always a topic that is covered in antenatal classes, but it’s something that many new mums will find themselves having to learn. Expressing milk is where you squeeze, or use a breast pump, to extract milk for your baby from your breasts. Some women can feel a bit degraded expressing their milk (it is, sadly, rather like milking a cow), and it can be a long and tiring process, especially if you have to do it on a regular basis.

Why Might I Need to Express Milk?

Ideally, breastmilk offers babies the best start in life, but sometimes babies aren’t natural feeders. Or, they could have been born prematurely and aren’t able to breastfeed yet, so you may be asked to express milk for the hospital to use in bottles.

Expressing milk is also useful if you’re going to be away from your baby for a few hours, a day, or going back to work, and want to continue to ensure they get their dose of nutritious baby milk.

In addition, expressing milk does have a few benefits of its own. For example, it can help extend the time when you’re breastfeeding, as it helps keep your milk in supply, plus if you’re really suffering from swollen breasts, expressing milk can relieve some of the discomfort.

Milk can be expressed by hand or by using a specially designed breast pump. It’s worthwhile trying both methods, so you can find out which works best for you, but if you’re going to be doing it frequently (for example, if your baby isn’t breastfeeding very well or you’re away from your baby), then using a breast pump may be the easier option.

Expressing Milk By Hand

To express by hand, you should first wash your hands to ensure they’re completely clean and sterilise a container for collecting the milk in. You may also find it useful to warm your breasts by placing a warm flannel on them, or massaging them.

Use one hand to support your breast, then with the other place your thumb about 4cm from the nipple and your fingers below. Gently squeeze your finger and thumb together, in a circular motion around your areola, pressing backwards to release your milk. If it hurts, then it could be a sign that your finger and thumb are too close to the nipple, so adjust them to a position that isn’t painful.

As milk comes out, it doesn’t necessarily flow out slowly and can spray in all directions, so be ready to catch it. If you don’t manage well at first, do give it another go, as the more you practice, the easier it should be.

Expressing Milk With a Breast Pump

If you don’t get on with expressing milk by hand, or need to express milk on a regular basis, then breast pumps are available. The two many choices are manual breast pumps or electric breast pumps.

If you choose a manual pump, you will still need to help extract the milk, but with an electric breast pump, it does everything for you.

Both breast pump devices work by having a suction cup that goes over your breast, with a sucking device that mimics the sucking reflex of a baby. Expressing milk with a breast pump on average takes 15 to 45 minutes each time.

Storing Breast Milk

Once you have expressed breast milk, it can be sealed in a feeding bottle, put in the fridge or freezer. Breast milk that’s been refrigerated should be used within 3 days, but if it’s frozen, it should last three months – just be sure to label it with the date when you freeze it. When you come to use the frozen breastmilk, always ensure it’s properly defrosted first.

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