If you’ve chosen to breastfeed, pumping and hand expression of breast milk are important skills to master. They allow you to feed your baby breast milk when you are apart and can also help alleviate the discomfort of breastfeeding challenges like engorgement and clogged milk ducts.
Using a breast pump or expressing milk by hand may feel very different from nursing your baby. Like any skill, they take a little practice.
Here’s a quick primer to help you get started.
Milk expression is the process of removing milk from your breasts, often to feed your baby at a later time. You can remove your milk by hand, which is called hand expression, or you can use a manual or electric pump.
While you should feel empowered to use whatever process you find most convenient, all breastfeeding individuals should know how to express milk by hand.
There are certain instances when hand expression is necessary, for example if your pump stops working or your breasts become engorged and you don’t have a pump on hand.
In both cases, you can feed your baby expressed milk right away or store it for later use using safe storage guidelines.
Expressed milk can be stored at room temperature or in the refrigerator or freezer using a glass container, a BPA-free clear plastic container, or breast milk storage bags.
Here are some tips to ensure safe and efficient storage:
It depends on your reason for pumping or expressing milk. If you are storing milk to feed your baby at a later time, pump or manually express your milk after nursing your baby and when your baby is asleep.
While you are away from your baby, pump or express milk at the times you would feed your baby to avoid issues with milk production and supply.
You can also use these techniques as needed to alleviate the fullness of engorgement or clogged milk ducts.
Pumping or expressing milk by hand should never be a painful experience. If you are experiencing discomfort, a lactation consultant can offer suggestions and help you find the best approach.
In addition, make sure that you’re using a well fitting breast shield, which is a funnel-shaped piece that fits over your breast. The shield should completely surround your nipple, but with enough space to avoid rubbing against your skin.
Check with a lactation consultant if you’re concerned about the size of your breast shield.
Ruth Health offers nearly 24/7 virtual lactation support from Certified Lactation Counselors (CLCs) to provide individualized care throughout your breastfeeding journey.
Learn how we can help you navigate the many stages of breastfeeding, and sign up below to join our community.
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