When your baby is first born, it can seem overwhelming; so many things to remember and such a tiny bundle gazing up at you. Expressing milk can seem like just another job on your ever growing to-do list.
The good news is that you don’t have to rush in to expressing milk, so if you’re not up to it immediately, you can leave it for a few days. It is worth having at least one session while you’re in the hospital so your midwife can show you how the pump works and how to position it. But if you decide to wait until you’re at home, here a few useful things to know about expressing.
Your first ever use of a breast pump probably won’t yield a huge amount of milk. Don’t be alarmed by this, in the early days and weeks you’re still building up your milk supply and getting breast feeding established. Introducing a breast pump is another layer to this and something else for your body to get used to. There are also times that your body responds to the pump and other times where it doesn’t. The key is to express frequently and consistently, so find the times that work best for you and your body, and stick with that routine.
Make sure you wash your hands before and after expressing milk. Wash your pump after each use, and sterilise all parts of your breast pump once a day. Allocate a large plastic storage box, like one you would normally store leftovers in, and keep your sterilised breast pump in this. Storing it in the fridge will keep it sterilised until you are ready to use it again.
As with breast feeding, you need to be comfortable to effectively express. Make sure you have everything you need so you don’t have to keep getting up and down while you’re on the pump. Make a cup of tea, or put a glass of water next to your chair. A breast pump won’t stimulate the relevant hormones the way your baby does, so it may take time to get started, which is why it’s important to be comfortable. Other things that can help with getting started are some deep breathing, visualisations, calming music or thinking about or looking at photos of your baby.
As mentioned above, your baby stimulates your milk better than anything else, so if your let down needs a hand, applying a warm compress or heat pack to your breasts can help. Massaging your breasts before and while you are expressing can also help with flow. If your baby is awake and you can manage it, skin to skin contact will always help. You could try feeding your baby from one breast and expressing from the other.
You’ll get the most out of expressing if you turn up the breast pump to the highest setting you can tolerate. It’s important that you remain comfortable, if it is uncomfortable or hurts at all, you should turn it down. It’s worth finding that highest setting and using it as often as you can as your body will respond, and it makes expressing more effective.
If you plan on expressing for a long while, consider investing in a double pump so you can do both breasts at once. Research has shown that expressing from both breasts at once an bring on an additional let down, so you’ll end up with more milk than if you expressed from each breast separately.