Expressing milk by breast pumping

Expressing milk by pump – Transcript

In my work with breastfeeding mothers I get a lot of questions regarding pumping, expressing milk, and many of those questions are asked in the first few weeks after having your baby, and there are many reasons why you may wish or need to do this for a time – but for the majority of you, you’re really just wanting some flexibility to maybe go out for an hour or two away from your baby, and just be confident that your baby will get that milk.

And I think it’s equally important to know that many of you may never use a breast pump for the whole of your breastfeeding journey, and that’s equally fine. And if this is true for you, I would still encourage you to learn the technique of hand expression, where you use your hand to get milk out of the breast, because that technique can help to relieve engorgement, if you suddenly become uncomfortably full, and this can prevent a blocked duct and/or mastitis.

And hand expression is also useful if you have a fast let-down, where your baby is coughing or spluttering at the beginning of the feed. It might also be that you use the technique just to get a little bit of milk off the breast, if you are occasionally separated from your baby.

If you have learned the technique of hand expression, it’s fine to be using that technique to keep yourself comfortable from birth really, whenever that situation arises, but in regard to pumping your milk with a pump itself, it is FAR better to allow your breastmilk to become established, (how breastfeeding works) which takes about four to six weeks generally before you can have that flexibility for pumping – and this is purely because your baby is building up that supply every single day, putting in extra demand, telling your body to make milk, just according to his needs – and round about the four to six week mark your body will then be making a very similar amount of milk per day – so then you have that flexibility for extra pumping.

However there are some circumstances where using a breast pump can be really useful, even in those first four to six weeks, and that is in circumstances where your baby isn’t attaching well at the breast, or isn’t feeding particularly efficiently, (boosting supply) and therefore a pump is needed to tell your body to make that extra milk – and that extra milk can be given to your baby until he becomes better at doing what he does – and there’s a whole lot of related videos covering these topics.

It’s also wonderful to know that breast pumps can be useful when you go back to work to help your baby to still get that breastmilk, and to keep up and maintain your supply in the process, and one of the reasons why you may be pumping your milk is simply because you want that flexibility, that choice of giving some expressed milk, and also feeding at the breast, because that works better for you and your family.

It might also be that you want to exclusively pump and that’s a personal choice too.

So if you are planning to pump your milk, it’s good to be really clear about the reasons why you are doing it, and how often you are hoping to do to it too, because the type of pump that you choose will be specific to those needs.

I must point out that if you need to exclusively pump your milk: maybe your baby is not latching at all at the moment, or you’re trying to relactate or induce lactation, the best possible pump is a hospital grade double pump. These are the pumps that can really reduce your pumping time and get more yield of milk in the process – and it’s good to look at the videos relating to that to get all of that information.

Over the years I’ve seen a lot of ladies who have tried very hard to be boosting supply, keeping that supply going for the baby, with a less than adequate pump. So if for any reason you are unable to obtain a hospital grade double pump then please look at the best quality one you can to make as much milk as possible.

I do find that breastfeeding mothers who are pumping, tend to worry that the pump is taking away some of that milk that the baby should have had at the breast, and I do understand the rationale for that, but the reason is because of lack of knowledge around how breastmilk is made. And I think it’s a really good idea and I strongly encourage you to look at the video relating to how that all works, and know that every time the pump goes on, and a little bit of milk comes off the breast, your body will make more – so in affect, the pump is putting in EXTRA, demand and telling your body to make that bit extra.

So when is a good time to pump your milk? The majority of breastfeeding mothers tend to find that they can get more yield of milk in the morning, and less towards the end of the day, and we know that towards the end of the day, babies at the breast have to do quite a lot of frequent cluster nursing, (normal patterns) and generally have to work that bit harder to generate supply. Supply is available but there is that harder work. Now it’s the same for pumping. You will generally find you will get more milk at different times of the day, particularly in the morning, and less in the evening.

And I think it’s also really important to know that pumping at different times of the day can yield different amounts, and this is normal. Many women get very upset to find that maybe they got 30, 60 mls or more in one session, and then later on found they only got 10 mls, so this is all normal. It does change and fluctuate.

And also, if you lined up 10 women with the same pump, you’d find that everybody would probably produce a different amount as well – due to the interplay of hormones that we all have, different from person to person – and if you’re finding that you’re only getting small amounts of milk at each pumping session, then it’s good to know that you can add to the same batch over 24 hours, so a little bit here and a little bit there. As long as you are cooling it down each time, and adding it to previously cooled milk in your refrigerator.

And I would also strongly encourage you to understand and learn all about the handling and storage of milk, and know that if you are expressing for a premature baby, for instance, the guidelines can be different and you must follow those.

And another really important point is that if you are pumping your milk while you’re breastfeeding as well, and even if you’re exclusively pumping, you may get uncomfortably full at any given time in between those pumping and feeding sessions. If you become uncomfortably full it’s vitally important that you HAND express a small amount of milk. just with your hand, to feel comfortable again – and that is your simple preventative tool to prevent a blocked duct.

I am really pleased that we do live in an age when we have these extra devices that can help us to reach our breastfeeding goals,, because although breastfeeding is a normal and natural process, and in an ideal world we would all breastfeed with no added interventions or devices, BUT I just understand that there are so many potential hurdles that can occur during your breastfeeding experience, and these pumps can be a really useful tool.

Review dates, references & further resources

Review Dates

Version 1.1 published in March 2019. Next review date: Jan 2022


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