One of the beautiful things about breastfeeding is that breastfeeding is a relationship between you and your baby. Breast feeding is not only about nutrition but also bonding and getting to know eat other. The dynamics and how you feed can change overtime as both of you grow in your knowledge of breastfeeding and of each other. Breastfeeding is so intimate that your experience will be so different from other mothers. And that can be so beautiful!
Mothers need to talk about their breastfeeding experiences because although there may be a similar themes all the moms have their own unique story. There are so many ways to breast feed a baby. Did you know that over 85% of breast-feeding mothers also express their breast milk? There are so many reasons for mothers wanting the express like prematurity, separation from baby, illness, pain, low milk supply, fast letdown or even engorgement. Some mothers see this as their ideal feeding method while other mothers have had to raise up to a challenge and finding a way in which they still can provide breast milk for their little one.
As an exclusive pumper (while my babies were in NICU) and then a part time pumper (while learning how to breastfeed and then later going back to work), I can say that expressing is a wonderful way to still supply breast milk to your baby but that it is also a lot of work. The time it takes to express plus the sterilisation of the equipment is valuable time for any mother. My private goal for breastfeeding my children was the “standard” 6 months exclusive and 2 years or longer. I can confidently say that without the initial expressing and then part time expressing, I would never have reached my goals.
As I mentioned earlier expressing breast milk takes time and effort. Here are some hacks to help you make the most of your time:
- Learn how to hand express. This is an important skill that all breast-feeding moms need to know. You just never know when you will need it.
- Use the correct pump for your needs and affordability. Find a good quality double electric pump that can help you to express in less time with higher milk out comes. This may be the defining reason for being successful or not
- The key to a good milk supply is emptying of your breast. If you are exclusively pumping, you need to remove your breastmilk as often as your baby would have fed. This can be 8 or more times a day.
- Massage and use warmth before you start expressing to help with your let down and milk supply.
- If using a breast pump, you can use hands on expressing and finish with hand expression. This way you are able to completely empty your breasts which helps with increasing your milk supply.
- Store your breast milk safely.
If you are planning to continue to breastfeed once you go back to work, inform your company before you go on maternity leave. If they do not have a room and policies to help you with breastfeeding this will allow them time to find a space that is appropriate for you. Ask them for the policy on breastfeeding and enquire about your two 30-minute breastfeeding break that you will be taking in order to express for your baby.
Here are some tips on how to practically express for your baby while at work
Step 1: Build a stash
You only really need to start to store up a supply of breast milk about 2-4 weeks before you go back to work. You can expect to express the following amounts:
- If you are expressing in between feeds while direct feeding expect to express about half a feed.
- If you are expressing to replace a direct feed expect to express a full feed
Women have different storage capacities so some women will be able to express more than what is expected. All women are different and try not to compare yourself with others.
Step 2: Find your work expression spot
Make it as comfortable as possible for you. Check to see if you can lock the door, or bring a sign for the door that indicates that you are expressing and that you should not be disturbed
Step 3: Make the place clean and hygienic as possible
If needed clean the surfaces. Wash your hands before your start expressing. Bring sterilised equipment to the office. This way you can avoid the need to sterilise at work.
Step 4: Prepare for expressing
Use a few minutes to disconnect from the hustle and stress of work. Focus on your baby, you can even watch a short video or look at pictures of your child. Use heat pads and/or massage your breast to help with the let-down.
Step 5: Express your milk
Express in your preferred method.
Step 6: Store your milk safely
Once you have finished, store your breast milk into the contain that you will be freezing it in. Make sure it is closed tightly and will not leak during transportation. Depending on the facilities that you have at your workplace. You can store your milk in a fridge or cooler bag with ice packs for the rest of the day. Once you are home you can freeze or get the milk ready for the next day.
Remember to label the bottle with baby’s name and date of expression so that you can identify your milk and how old it is.
Step 7: Clean up
Make sure that you leave the area clean and ready for the next mom to use.
Step 8: Prepare for the next day
Once you are home wash and sterilise your equipment. Once your equipment is dry pack it away ready for you to take to work. This way you are less likely to forget it in the morning.
It really helps to have all your pumping equipment together in a bag have a look at the Carry all bag that can be purchased with the Finesse breast pump
Step 9: Decide how you will feed the expressed milk to your baby.
Teach the person that will be caring for your baby the method that you have decided to feed your baby. Make sure they understand how to and can demonstrate that they can safely feed your child.
Due to expressing breast milk mothers can build up their milk supply when in difficult situation and supply milk to their baby for longer if returning to work. This is with much time and effort from the mother which is often not realised by the rest of the community. Whenever I hear that a mom is expressing for her baby I acknowledge what she is doing and recognise her commitment.