So, you’re ready to get started with your breast pump. Now it’s time to begin expressing breastmilk.
It may take you a while to get the hang of expressing. That’s OK though, just like your baby, you’re new to all this.
It does take a bit of practice, but being relaxed can really help your milk let down. So, try to relax, take your time, and be prepared for a few false starts!
Ahead of expressing, you should…
- Sterilise all parts of your breast pump before each use.
- Assemble the pump according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
- Remember that breastmilk storage should take place in a sterile container. Using pre-sterilised bags is a great idea, as you can express directly into them and then just pop them in the fridge or freezer – no decanting, no mess, no waste!
How Do I Start Breast Pumping?
You can choose to express breastmilk with a breast pump or express it by hand. Whichever you choose, there are a few things you can do to help make it easier:
- Find a comfortable and quiet place and think about what will make you relaxed. Maybe some music will help?
- Gather all you need – a sterilised breast pump and container, a drink, snack, phone, TV remote and something to help you focus on your baby (perhaps a photo or video or even their blanket).
- Make sure you’ve washed your hands and then get comfortable.
- You are trying to emulate the sensation of your baby nuzzling as they feed, so gently massaging your breast, including the nipple area, can help to kick start your breastfeeding hormones.
Advice for Expressing Breastmilk
When you’re expressing breastmilk, start by making sure your breast is fully in the horn of the breast pump. You need to create a seal to get things working efficiently.
If you’re using an electric pump, begin slowly at first while ensuring that the pump is in the correct position and comfortable. You should see the milk dropping into the container. If there’s no milk there, try adjusting the pump on your breast to create a better seal.
While you are expressing, simply use one hand to massage your breast from the armpits towards the nipple.
Be sure to express until the milk flow stops on each breast. How long this will take can vary for every mum, and even from one day to the next. Don’t worry if you only get a little milk though, everyone is different, and it will get easier.
If you are having problems expressing breastmilk, you might like to try something called a breast compression while you are expressing. It will help to stimulate additional let-downs and thoroughly drain your milk ducts.
After expressing milk from one breast, repeat the cycle again on the other side.
Expressing Breastmilk by Hand
To express breastmilk by hand, cup your breast with the palm of your hand and place your thumb just above your nipple. Compress and release the nipple until the milk begins to flow. Continue until the milk flow stops on the breast and then repeat the cycle again on the other breast. Once you have completed the cycle on both breasts, please remember to store your breastmilk in a sterile container.
It can feel a little odd expressing breastmilk by hand, as well as taking a while to get the hang of the technique, so don’t worry if it takes a few attempts!