You hear a lot about women expressing their breast milk either by massaging their breasts with their hands or with a breast pump. Why would any woman want to do this, when it is so natural to allow the baby to feed directly off the breast? There are actually quite a few reasons why most women need to express milk at some point in their breastfeeding years. The most common reasons include:
- The baby has difficulty latching and cannot express milk independently.
- The baby was born premature or has a medical condition, forcing them to remain in the hospital. The mother may not be able to stay at all times to breastfeed naturally, but the baby needs the breast milk.
- The mother must return to work but wants to continue feeding the baby breast milk.
- The mother must return to work and needs to relieve the breasts of tension and avoid leaking.
- The mother is working part time, and needs to leave bottles of breast milk at home with another parent or babysitter. They breast feed naturally the rest of the time.
- There are problems with the mother’s milk, and it is not expressing properly for the baby.
- The breasts are too full and overextended for the baby to comfortably latch. Expressing a small amount of milk allows the baby to latch correctly.
- Improper breastfeeding has led to nipple damage. A period of time without natural feeding allows the nipple to heal.
- The mother’s milk supply is starting to slow down. Expression can help get it going full speed again.
- Nipple blockage may put the mother at risk of mastitis. The flow of milk clears the blockage.
- Mastitis has set in, and the mother needs to maintain her milk flow.
Most mothers do have to express milk on their own at some point during their breastfeeding years. This often occurs when the other needs to return to work, or needs to leave the home for a short period of time without the baby. There may also be circumstances or locations where natural feeding seem inappropriate or uncomfortable for the mother. Expressing into a bottle ahead of time with a bottle nipple similarly shaped to the mother’s nipple can allow expression without wasting milk or breaking the baby’s habit of natural breastfeeding.
How Can You Express Breast Milk
You have several options for expressing breast milk:
Looking for a Good Breast Pump?
We have outlined some steps you can take to determine what is the very best breast pump to buy for your you and your situation.
Storing and Saving Breast Milk
You can store expressed breast milk to use later. If you are planning on returning to work or just taking a night away with your hubby,
visit our Storing Breastmilk page for more information.
Finding Help if You Need It
There are lots of mommies who can help you learn to express breast milk easily and without pain. If you don’t know anyone who has experience with this, you might want to try contacting a lactation consultant, a child health nurse, your doctor or your local Le Leche League.