Expressing or pumping breastmilk for your baby is not easy. In fact, it is so hard, that with my first son, I was convinced that I could not do it and gave up completely. The fact is, that with the correct technique, equipment & schedule, it is possible to express plenty of milk to support your baby’s feeding. Read on to find out how you can successfully pump for your baby in a way that fits around your busy life with my top tips.
Keep It Regular
As I have discussed in many of the other posts in the breastfeeding series, our bodies produce milk with a supply and demand system. Our bodies take notes when milk is demanded and produce milk in the future accordingly. So a key factor in expressing for success is making sure that you are expressing at the same times each day. If you want to read more about how routine can help you and your baby, check out my baby routine post.
Early In The Morning
As prolactin levels (the magic hormone responsible for regulating your milk supply) are at their highest at night, the best time to pump would be during the night. If you don’t fancy waking to express while everyone else is sleeping (which is not necessary unless you are following an extreme regime to boost your supply), the best time of day to express is generally first thing in the morning. I used to set an alarm and pump early before my children got up as this was when I could pump the most milk in the shortest time.
Get Your Baby To Help You
Well, not literally, but having your baby near by can certainly help. Simple things like cuddling your baby and stroking their little head can help to release oxytocin, the love and bonding hormone, which helps to get the milk flowing. I often used to sit on the bed with my legs crossed with my baby in my lap while expressing, which helped with production as well as keeping my babies happy.
If you are not able to be in the same room as your baby while pumping, try looking at photos or videos of them.
Electrify the situation
The fact that I simply could not express when I had my first, I largely put down to the fact that I only had a manual pump. The stamina and hand strength that it takes to maintain a regular rhythm for 20 plus minutes of expressing per boob was more than I could manage.
For me, the answer was an electric pump. Although the electric pumps are more expensive, for me they are better value than a cheaper manual pump that will be relegated to the cupboard forever when it’s user gives up expressing altogether because it is too difficult.
My first breast pump was a Medela Swing pump and it was fab. The pump has a two phase system which mimics your babies natural suction pattern. It starts with a rapid suction just as your baby would do one they first feeding, then moved to a more drawn out suction which replicates the way your baby would feed as they are getting a flow of milk and swallowing. While no breast pump will ever be quite efficient as your baby in extracting milk from your body, this 2 phase system gets pretty much as close as an artificial system can to maximising the amount of that you will pump.
Make Mine A Double
If you want to take your expressing game to the next level, it may be worth investing in a double breast pump. Not only is it quicker than doing both boobs consecutively, that double pumping seems to track your body into producing more mark in total. It is like it tells your body that you have twins and more milk is needed. Let’s face it, what we all need as busy mums is to be able to produce more milk and less time. Check out the video below to learn how double pumping works to maximise milk production.
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In order to further maximise your time the best way to double pump is two double pump hands-free, as pop super star Pink! is seen doing here in a candid Instagram snap. She is wearing a special bra which attaches the breast pump to your boobs directly, leaving your hands free to do what you need to do, be it work, apply make-up, or simply see to your baby.
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I never actually bothered to invest in one of the special bras (although with breastfeeding for babies up until nearly their second birthday each time, I’m certainly would have had life money out of one). Instead I made to do with wedging the bottles for the pump up against my dressing table to free one hand in order to get ready in the morning while expressing.
Muslin Squares Can Be Handy
Amazing and miraculous as it may be that we can pump liquid gold from our bodies to sustain our babies, the reality of the matter is that sitting attached to a breast pump can make us feel a bit like a milking cow. The way in which I managed to get around this while feeling less self-conscious if pumping in the presence of other people, was basically using the muslin square. I would check one corner in each side of my bra forming a cover over my boobs and all the pumping equipment attached to them, which always made me feel a bit more normal. This is by no means an necessary aspect of expressing, but I certainly found it helped me.
Those muslin squares also come in super handy for mopping up any leaks and spillages that can occur while expressing your milk.
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Gather Everything That You Need
Expressing milk certainly takes a lot more equipment than just feeding your baby directly from your boob. I have always found it handy to have little baskets that I use to take all the bits and pieces from the steriliser to where I was going to sit and pump milk, which was usually somewhere upstairs. These are also handy for transporting the freshly expressed and super precious milk back downstairs where can be safely stored in the fridge. Using these baskets has prevented many spillage.
As well as the absolute essentials that you need for expressing, such as the pump and all the attachments, make sure that you have anything else that might want during your pumping session to hand before you get started. Sitting still 20 plus minutes attached to the machine can be really boring, so make the most of the opportunity to sit, chill out and relax. Making sure that you have a drink, snack if you need it, as well as a book, TV remote for iPad for your expressing session can make the whole process more pleasant. Let’s face it, as new Mums we are busy and exhausted, make the most of this opportunity to relax continuing to chill into a lovely experience.
Optimise And Maximise
The more plentiful your supply of breastmilk, the more you will be able to express in each pumping session. Check out my post with five top tips to boost your supply of breastmilk for more information.
Relaxing while expressing will make sure that your mind and body are in the best place to produce the most milk. This can be easier said than done, especially if like me, you can find yourself obsessing over exactly how many millilitres you are or are not producing. Putting this kind of stress and pressure on yourself will not help. If you are put under two much scrutiny with lots of expectation to perform, you may not be able to perform at all.
With this in mind, it can be helpful to take your mind off the whole thing by indulging in some addictive TV programmes. Check out my post all about the best TV series to binge watch while breastfeeding for my a list of my favourites.
So those are my top tips for how to make expressing breast milk little bit easier. Have you ever tried expressing breastmilk? How easy or fat did you find it? To the type of pump that you used make a difference? Let me know in the comments, I love hearing from you, my lovely readers.
Don’t forget to checkout the other posts and the breastfeeding series;
What To Wear When Breastfeeding
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