There are several ways you can express breast milk. It’s usually a good idea to find a warm, quiet, comfortable place and to relax and be free from disturbances.
Express Breast Milk By Hand
Expressing milk by hand can take a lot of practice, and you may want to enlist the help of a lactation consultant. There are slightly different methods, but the main aim is to assist the ‘let down’ of milk and drain the milk ducts. To stimulate the ‘let down’ you have to massage the breast. Stroke down towards the nipple and gently roll the nipples between your fingers.
Then, to drain the milk ducts, put your thumb on top of the areola (the dark circle of skin around the nipple), well away from the nipple itself, and your first 2 fingers on the bottom of the areola. Rhythmically squeeze them together. Try not to press too hard. Work around the areola, repeating this process. The goal is not to squeeze the nipple, but to release the milk stored behind the nipple.
Keep expressing this way until the milk flow slows down to a drip, and then do the same on the other breast.
The milk comes out in small squirts at first and then starts flowing freely. The amount of milk that can be produced varies from person to person. (At first, it may be just an ounce. However, many mothers are able to completely empty their breasts this way.) The entire process takes about 30 minutes.
I never had much luck with this method. The only time I used it was when I was away from home and felt engorged. I then expressed just enough milk to make me comfortable enough that I could enjoy the rest of my evening and use my breast pump when I returned home.
Using a pump
Whether you use an electric or a hand (manual) pump to express breast milk, you will still need to find a place to relax to pump.
When using a pump, be careful not to exert too much suction on the nipple. Pumps can occasionally hurt a bit and crack the nipple. Just use the lowest settings at first, and increase when you feel more comfortable.
I became quite efficient at pumping to express breast milk and could completely empty both breasts in less than 15 minutes. With a little practice and a good breast pump, it can be quite an efficient process. (With my second child, I worked a couple days away from home and was able to pump more than she was able to eat while I was gone!)
Just remember that a pump should be treated like a baby’s feeding bottle and needs to be sterilized and cleaned on a regular basis.
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