Mega-marketing machines convince many mothers that a breast pump is an essential baby item. It is not.
There are really only three reasons why you might need to express breast milk:
- Your baby is cannot suck well,
- You and your baby are, or will be, separated,
- Your breasts feel full or uncomfortable.
One of the most common and incorrect reasons that women are told to express breast milk is to increase their milk supply. I say incorrect because your baby is far more efficient at removing milk from your breast than your pump is. Expressing milk to boost supply is only necessary if your baby can’t suck well (see point one, above).
If your baby isn’t sucking well it’s really important to figure out why, or you may be unnecessarily chained to your breast pump for months.
Sometimes it is as simple as needing a nipple shield, sometimes is requires a more complex solution, like an operation for tongue-tie.
Maybe it will resolve itself in time, for example, a premature or sleepy baby. In this case, you may like to temporarily express milk in the meantime, to establish your supply.
Unfortunately, there are some cases of poor sucking that can’t be resolved, for example, if your baby has a physical disability.
Get an independent Lactation Consultant to come and help you figure it out now, and avoid potential heartache and stress later.
So, if you still want to express milk, it all depends on the reason why you are expressing. These are general oxytocin-inducing guidelines to pumping milk with love. Since oxytocin is involved with your milk let down, you need to enjoy pumping or it won’t work.
1. Choose a pump you love!
Some women love double electric pumps, whilst they make other women feel like dairy cows. Some mothers feel much more comfortable hand expressing, whilst others really enjoy their manual pumps. Choose whatever kind of pump you enjoy using. Just make sure that the shield fits your nipple comfortably and change sizes if needed.
2. Don’t watch the clock
Routines and schedules can be very stressful. Strict times or durations for expressing milk can be really counter-productive. If you are told you have to express for 15 minutes, but your baby is crying and there’s no milk coming out anyway, what are the benefits? Express when you feel like expressing and stop when you feel like stopping.
3. Think happy thoughts
Some women find it easier to express when they have a photo of their baby, or a cat to cuddle. Have a laugh. Stay warm. Do whatever it takes to feel good and this oxytocin flow will help the milk to flow too.
How much milk you actually express is no indication of your milk supply or how much milk your baby is getting. Some women can only ever express 10-20 ml of milk at a time, and they have thriving babies.