Top Tips for Expressing Breastmilk
If you are planning on breastfeeding your baby, you are in for one of the most incredible journeys of your life. There is not much else that can match the bond formed between a breastfeeding mother and her new baby. Everything your baby needs in the first few months of life, you are able to provide.
It will be tough at times. The first two months are probably the most exhausting. It will feel as though your baby is attached to you 24/7. Chances are that’s probably correct. Take it day by day, and enjoy being able to spend so much time with them. Before you know it, you may need to return to work and start expressing, which is a whole other experience altogether.
Unfortunately, most households nowadays need two incomes. Many mums need to return to work before their baby’s first birthday. The separation anxiety both you and your baby will have to deal with is hard to overcome, but you will have something else to contend with – expressing.
If you want to continue breastfeeding after returning to work, you will need to start expressing at work. This will keep up your milk supply, stop your breasts from becoming engorged while away from your baby, and will provide milk for your baby while you are away.
Every mum’s expressing experience is different. Some mums nail it and get exactly the right amount each time with no hassle, and others have to really put in some effort to express enough for their baby. Whichever category you fall into, you can expect to have some of the same issues all round.
You will need to keep to a regular routine. Breasts are quite incredible, and almost have a mind of their own. They will very quickly adjust to your new expressing routine and will be ready to be expressed at the same time each day. Be prepared to sit in a room alone pumping for a good 20 to 30 minutes multiple times a day. Try keep your phone handy for some entertainment, it can become quite monotonous! Also, expect to be more excited about a good pumping session than you ever thought possible.
Although you will be expressing throughout the day at work, mornings are usually the most productive time to express. If you are worried about not pumping enough for your baby to see them through the day, wake up half an hour earlier in the mornings to express, you will be surprised at how much you will be able to pump out.
When it comes to the equipment you need, it can seem quite overwhelming at first. There are a few standard items that you will require – maternity bras and breast pads, but there are several types of breast pumps to choose from. You can either use a manual breast pump or you can invest in an electric breast pump, which can be either a single or double. Manual breast pumps are great for on the go, and they give you more control over pumping. They are usually small enough to fit in a bag, they are easy to sterilize and clean and are generally cheaper. However, some mums find that it can be tiring having to manually pump, it takes longer and that their breasts don’t respond well to a manual pump. Electric breast pumps are a lot more efficient and much easier to use when expressing often. The electric breast pumps come in single or double and require a plug point or batteries to work. These can save a lot of time and are obviously much easier to use. The issues are that they are not so easy to pack away and carry around, they need a power source, they can be noisy and they are quite pricey. You will just need to make a personal decision on which pump is better for you, as every mum has a unique experience and preference.
One of the trickiest parts of expressing is effective and safe storage. For working mums, it is easy enough to pack your expressed breastmilk into a cooler bag and stash it in the fridge at work. When you get home, you can decant it into freezer storage containers and then freeze them. Some mums use BPA freezer bags, others use milk-storage containers. The freezer bags often work out cheaper and take less space in the freezer. Milk-storage containers are more expensive, but can be sterilized and reused. When you are expressing while out and about, you will need to ensure you have a cooler bag with ice packs to keep the milk cool until it can be refrigerated or frozen.
As with anything, there are ups and downs to expressing. It may become quite tedious and feel like a real chore at times, but remember that you are doing the best thing for your baby. It may even help you feel more connected to your baby while you are away from them at work.
As your breasts adjust to expressing, you may experience some engorgement, pain or tenderness. They won’t fully fall into routine for quite some time, and this adjustment period may cause an oversupply and blockages. If these blockages are left, they can turn into a nasty condition called mastitis. Cold therapy is one of the best ways to deal with engorgement, pain and tenderness. Products such as the BodyICE Woman Breast Pads are designed specifically for breastfeeding mums. As soon as you feel any discomfort, press the cold breast pad against your breast until there is some relief. You may have to express a small amount of milk to stop the engorgement, but the cold therapy will help relieve any blocked milk ducts and reduce pain and inflammation.
Your breastfeeding and expressing journey is going to be a rollercoaster ride, but it is going to be a ride you won’t want to get off from. It can be really challenging at times, but the love and bond formed between a breastfeeding mum and baby is unmatchable. Expressing for your baby ensures that you are still providing them with everything their little body and mind needs to grow, which is the best any mum can do.