Tips On Expressing Breast Milk

This post is a repost from 21 June 2011. I had just returned from six months in South Africa, where I had pumped for a hospital who used the milk for AIDS babies. Please read yesterday’s post: The Benefits of Donated Breast Milk. @smiffysmrs on Twitter told me that she’d been donating breastmilk for almost seven months. When I asked her what her partner thought about her donating breastmilk, she responded:  {he} thinks its awesome that Bella and I are helping premature babies get a great start.  I loved how she included her daughter in the act of donating. It’s not just something she does, with her body, but it’s a team effort from herself and her nurseling. I just love that! Here’s the post I wrote after 20 months of breastfeeding:

For most of my time breastfeeding, I have expressed. Initially I did so to get my husband to feed my daughter’s 11pm feed so that I could have some ‘solid’ sleep.  At three months, my daughter refused the bottle, but I still needed to express as my boobs were so full, she wasn’t getting everything  and I hoped she’d take the bottle again at some point.

Then I went to South Africa, where breastfeeding rates are abysmal – great misfortune in a country that desperately needs it- and decided to express for a milk bank there. Since we’ve been back in England, I’ve not been expressing much, but I hope to contribute to our local Human Milk for Human Babies group again once things settle down a bit here.

I’ve been thinking about expressing, and realised that I’ve never written anything about it, so here are my hints and tips for successful expressing:

  • Firstly, understand that what you express is not a measure of how much milk you have. Some women just don’t express much.
  • try to change pumps. I used one pump that took about 10 minutes to get 1 ounce. I swapped to another and got 10 ounces in the next 10 minutes.
  • Thirdly, start pumping as soon as possible. I started pumping in between two hourly feeds when my daughter was born and I believe that really benefited my flow.>
  • Fourth, understand how breast milk is produced, and how let down works. This will help you understand the supply and demand, and make the whole process easier.

Gorgeous Gifts: Donated BreastmilkTo express:

  • Try massaging your breasts to stimulate milk flow
  • Place a warm cloth on your breasts
  • Express straight out the shower – the warmth helps with the let down.
  • Visualise your baby breastfeeding
  • A picture of your child (or a video works well too) helps stimulate those hormones that release milk.
  • An item of baby clothing can do the same.
  • Let baby nurse on one side while you express the other. This takes practice, at first, but is achievable.
  • When I need to express a large amount, swapping baby and pump really helps. i.e when I can’t pump anymore from the left, I let Ameli nurse for a few minutes on the left, then start pumping again. This is because your baby is the best pump there is, and even when a pump gets nothing, your baby will.
  • Keep well hydrated – have a glass of water next to you and drink it while expressing.
  • Express a little milk into your hand to rub on your nipples after each session. (If you watch a baby breastfeed -or certainly my baby, so I assume it’s the same for others- here’s often milk just on her lips. This means my nipples are getting soaked in milk during her feeds, which protects them too. A pump doesn’t do this, so you need to do it  for yourself. Breast milk works better than any creams.)
  • Pump at the same time every day to ‘trick’ your body into supplying milk for your baby at that time.
  • Find the best time of day. In the mornings I would normally have a lot of milk, and expressing would be easy. At night it would take a little longer. But also remember that your milk changes, and at night nucleotides are released into your milk to help your baby sleep. If you’re giving expressed morning milk at night, that won’t be present in the milk, and visa versa.

So, those are my tips – is there anything else you can add?

Don’t forget to enter the #Keep Britain Breastfeeding Scavenger Hunt, and all these other competitions too:

For more from Keep Britain Breastfeeding read these blog posts:

Tigerlilly Quinn
The Princess Poets Life Adventures
The Mummy Adventure
Smiling Like Sunshine

and support these businesses:

Breast-Aid
Pixie Pants Cloth Napies
Fudgulous
Baby Beads

and don’t forget to visit this post to enter to win:

  • Breastmilk Keepsake
  • £15 Boobie Milk Voucher
  • Breastfeeding Pillow from Theraline
  • Breastpads from Theraline
  • Adjustable Drop Cup Feeding Bras  from Cantaloop
  • Baby-Proof Jewellery and Teething Necklace from Mama Jewels
  • Electric breastpump and accessories
  • Maternity Raspberry or Black Feeding Tops from Melba London
  • And over £1000 in prizes from Keep Britain Breastfeeding

Pic Of The Week 52-14

Our final days in South Africa saw us busy busy with clearing out, getting rid of, and packing up for our new, old lives. It’s amazing how much you can gather in a short time – and I guess the principle of a little bit at a time really adding up extends to more than just money (perhaps I should implement that strategy into savings!)  Over the last three months I have expressed milk only when Ameli has stayed over with my parents for a night, or spent a day with them.
A little at a time adds up and I took 16 bottles of expressed milk to the milk bank. The nurse was really surprised when I walked in. She couldn’t believe how much milk I was donating and made a big fuss about how generous that was and about how amazing it was that I was still breastfeeding. I was rather taken aback, to be honest. And not. It’s understandable when you understand the abysmal breastfeeding rates in South Africa – specifically among white women.

Funnily enough, I had grabbed a supermarket carrier bag to pop the frozen milk into, and as I was leaving spotted the logo on it: Gorgeous Gifts.

True, really. Liquid Gold, The WHO’s second choice feeding option, donated breastmilk.  I’m so pleased to have been able to help other mothers and their babies and am really sorry that the UK milkbanks wont allow mothers with babies over six months to donate breastmilk. I mean, if a third world hospital can pasteurise, add a few drops of vitamin A and whatever else, how easy would it be for a first world hospital?

As the hospital told me at my singing up visit: Breastmilk, regardless of the age of the baby it’s made for, is still a better option than formula.*

As always and once again, the system just isn’t there to help mothers.

Gorgeouss Gifts: Donated Breastmilk


*Not a statement meant to impart guilt. A simple statement of fact as said to me

.Thanks again for joining us for our Pic of the Week