I can’t do direct breastfeeding. How do I express my breast milk for my baby to consume?
Sometimes, you may not be able to directly breastfeed your baby. In these instances, your baby can still continue receiving your expressed breastmilk. Expressing your breastmilk simply means pumping out milk from your breast with your hands or with a breast pump, then feeding it to your baby after.
You may need to express your breastmilk if you are returning to work, or whenever you might be away from your baby, and will miss a feeding. Sometimes, you may even need to express your breastmilk between feeds to reduce the discomfort of having breasts that are too full with milk, and to ensure that your milk supply does not decrease. (Click here to read an article about improving milk supply)
Manually expressing breast milk
Expressing by hand is an option, and requires no equipment save for a wide-rimmed container. What you do is that you put pressure on the milk ducts that are located just behind your nipple. This means that you squeeze from behind your nipple and your nipple itself. Remember to wash your hands clean before starting!
Here are steps you can follow for successful manual expressing:
Step 1: Form a letter C with your thumb placed above your nipple, and your second and third fingers just below your nipple. You should use your left hand to express milk from your left breast, and your right hand to express milk from your right breast. Note that the tip of your thumb and the tip of your second and third fingers should be aligned.
Step 2: Push your fingers into your breast, all the while maintaining the C position.
Step 3: After pushing your fingers into your breast, you should roll your fingers back outwards at the same time, still maintaining the C position. When you begin, your thumb and second and third fingers should be in a 12 o’clock- 6 o’clock position. After you have exhausted this position for breastmilk, you should move your fingers in the C position to a 1 o’clock-7 o’clock position and so on, until you have emptied your breast of milk.
Take care not to squeeze too hard when you are manually expressing your milk. There should not be more pressure than when your baby is feeding at your breast.
Using a breastpump
Using a breastpump may be easier than manually expressing. There are two types of breastpumps: the electric and the manual.
Consumer-grade electric breast pumps are probably the most used breast pumps by breastfeeding mothers. They usually come as a set that includes the base control which controls the strength and speed of suction. This base control unit is connected by tubes to the flanges. Flanges are the plastic funnel-like devices you hold over your nipple and breast for expressing milk. Pumps can come with one flange or two flanges. If there is only one, you will have to express milk from your breasts one side and then the next. If there are two, you can express milk from both breasts at once. The set usually also comes with bottles and storage bags that attach to the flanges, as well as an insulated cooler bag to store the expressed milk temporarily.
Hospital-grade breast pumps are usually rented as they are multi-user pumps and very expensive to buy. They are generally used to establish milk supply early on in breastfeeding, and also to re-establish milk supply if you find it dropping dramatically in the course of your breastfeeding.
Manual pumps are the least expensive option, and as the name suggests, you need to use your hands to work the pump as there is no electricity involved to work the pump, unlike the hospital-grade and consumer grade electric breast pumps, which uses electricity to create a rhythmic suck-and-release force in the flanges to mimic your baby’s suckling and stimulate milk production.