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Your question:

What is the best way to express?

Expert’s answer:

Expressing your milk is a very useful skill to learn. In the early days you may want to express milk if:

  • your baby needs to be cared for in a Special Care Baby Unit or paediatric hospital;
  • you or your baby is too ill to breastfeed after birth; or
  • your breasts feel very full or uncomfortable or your baby is having difficulty latching on after your milk comes in.

As your baby grows you may want to express milk when you are going to be away from your baby for a time – both to have milk for your baby’s carer to give and to relieve the fullness in your breasts during the time you’re away from your baby.

Breastmilk continues to be an important part of your baby’s diet as other foods are introduced from six months of age.   If you are going back to work at this time and are continuing to breastfeed you may need to express milk also.

Whether you are hand expressing or using a pump, breastmilk expression is a learned skill. As well as the physical act of expressing, how you are feeling emotionally and psychologically will have an impact on how well you express your milk.

Many mums find it a bit tricky at first. If you are expressing in the early day’s it is very normal to only get a few drops. At this stage your baby’s tummy is very small and they don’t need a large amount to be satisfied [table]. With time and practice it will become easier and the amount of milk you express will increase.

Which should I use - pump or hand?

Hand expressing may be best if:

  • you’re expressing in the first one to three days after birth,
  • only want to express occasionally, or
  • are expressing to relieve feeling fullness, uncomfortable breasts or to soften your breasts so your baby can latch on better.

If you are regularly separated from your baby, or if there is a delay in breastfeeding after birth, your midwife may recommend that a pump is a good option.

Breast-pumps range from hand operated, small electric single pumps, electric double breast pumps, up to larger hospital grade double pumps. As with most products, there are many types available, and choosing can be confusing:

  • If your baby is ill, premature or if you are trying to establish a good milk supply for your baby, your midwife may recommend a large hospital grade pump as your best option.
  • If you will be express occasionally or for a short time manual or mini-electric pump may suit.
  • If your milk supply is well established and you are returning to work and want to continue to breastfeed, a double electric breast-pump may be the ideal choice. This will be quick as both breasts are pumped at one time.

Speak with your midwife, public health nurse, voluntary breastfeeding support person or lactation consultant for advice on which pump is best for you.   Larger hospital grade pumps can be expensive – you may be able to rent one. Your midwife, public health nurse or local pharmacy may be able to help.

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