On the pump
Your baby can still reap the benefits of breastmilk even when breastfeeding isn’t working out for you through the process of expressing milk. Lucia Walker provides helpful tips on how to make breastmilk pumping easier.
It’s easy to assume that breastfeeding is the most natural exercise that will occur once a baby is born. It’s common to believe that the new baby, equipped with suckling senses, will latch on immediately and nourish themselves from the mother’s breast without any problems. However, in many cases breastfeeding can be difficult, especially if mom is new at it and if the infant struggles to latch on to small or inverted nipples. It takes time and perseverance to get used to the new experience – both as a mother and for the baby.
Newborns have the instinct to latch and to suckle, but doing so correctly will help you avoid long-term suffering. In some cases, a lactation consultant or a nurse at the hospital will offer assistance, but if all else fails, remember that feeding your baby breastmilk is still possible. Breast pumps have been available since the late 1800s and have proven to be a saving grace for mothers who are unable to nurse their babies but want them to feed on breastmilk.
Why express breastmilk?
Some of the common reasons for mothers to express breastmilk include inverted nipples or a baby struggling to latch onto the breast, making success difficult to achieve. By using a breast pump, you can express enough breastmilk to feed your baby with a bottle, or even to draw out the nipple before latching your baby onto the breast.
Using a breast pump also helps stimulate the breast to produce and maintain a sufficient supply of milk, which is handy if you aren’t producing enough. While this is a great way to produce more milk, it’s important not to overstimulate the breast as this can cause a painful breast abscess. Using a breast pump can help with the engorgement too, but it’s always best to speak to a doctor or lactation consultant for medical advice first.
Breastmilk expression is also a helpful way for mothers who are returning to work to continue feeding their babies breastmilk. Although there are not many South African workplaces that make provision for mothers to express their breastmilk in a comfortable, private space during their breaks and store it in an appropriate designated area, many mothers make arrangements to do so in order to keep their babies on breastmilk.
Additionally, other family members get the opportunity to feed the baby when using expressed milk, which gives moms a bit of a break and time to relax.
How to do it
The best time to prepare for expressing your milk is when packing your hospital bag for baby’s birth. Pack a breast pump in case you have any difficulty latching the baby onto your breast. It can come in handy when you want to avoid having to feed your baby formula to substitute for the lack of breastmilk or colostrum while you’re getting settled. The pump action imitates a baby’s suckling and can assist in stimulating the production of breastmilk right from the start of your breastfeeding journey.
If you are pumping exclusively it’s best to invest in or hire a good quality, double electric pump – it will save you time and energy in the long run. When expressing for your newborn, it is recommended that you try to mimic what a nursing baby would do at the breast. To do this, pump every two hours for about 20 minutes at each breast. Experts say it’s best to keep the speed on a lower setting for comfort.
You can also do both – mothers who are breastfeeding comfortably, but also want to introduce their baby to a bottle for some freedom can express some milk ahead of their scheduled feed. It is important to schedule time to express to avoid overstimulation. Once you are ready to wean yourself off the pump, do so slowly by decreasing the amount of time you pump and then prolonging the time in-between pumping.
Breast pumping tips
Consider the following advice to successfully incorporate pumped breastmilk into your baby’s feeding routine:
- Invest in a breast pump that suits your daily needs. Mothers who are planning to be at home might have more time to express and may find using a manual pump works best. You might also want to consider having a manual pump as back-up (for example, if the electricity in your area is out).
- Schedule time to express around your baby’s feeding and nap times. Expressing ahead for the next feed while baby is sleeping can help mothers who are exclusively bottle-feeding express breastmilk.
- Invest in good quality breastmilk storage bags that can keep breastmilk in the freezer for six to 12 months.
Breastfeeding and expressing can be challenging especially for first-time mothers. Perseverance and research is key. Speak to other breastfeeding and breastmilk pumping moms to find out what has helped them on their journey. Their stories can help you stay positive and on track.