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Back You are here: Home Women World Mother and Child Feeding the Child Expressing breastmilk - Part 1

Feeding the Child

Expressing breastmilk - Part 1

What does expressing mean?

Expressing is simply a way of taking milk from your breast without your baby suckling. You can do this:

- by hand
- with a manual pump
- with an electric pump

Once you've expressed your milk, you can store it in the fridge or freezer to bottle feed to your baby later.

Why express milk?

Expressing means your baby can still have the benefits of breastmilk even if you are away from her. Whether you're just out for a few hours, or have gone back to work, your baby can carry on enjoying your milk while someone else is caring for her.

If you're out for long, you will also need to express while you and your baby are apart. This will stop your breasts becoming too full and uncomfortable.

If you gave birth prematurely, your baby may not be able to take milk straight from your breast at first. You can help her by expressing your milk.

Expressing milk is also a great way to increase your overall milk supply.

How do I express milk?

Expressing by hand is the cheapest way to do it, because you don't need to buy equipment. It does take a bit of getting used to. The trick is to put pressure on the milk ducts behind your nipple, rather than squeezing the nipple itself. It's a useful knack to have and can help you to relieve your breasts if they're too full. Find out more about expressing by hand.

You may find it easier to use a manual or electric pump. To use an electric pump, you put a suction cup over your breast, turn the machine on, and let it do the work. It'll extract your milk, depositing it in an attached container. Manual pumps also use a suction cup, but you'll have to repeatedly squeeze a handle to extract your milk.

It takes anywhere between 15 minutes and 45 minutes to pump both your breasts. Don't use time to guide you, though. Just pump for as long as your milk is flowing well. Change breasts when the flow slows down, and pump each breast twice. Good breast pumps try to mimic the sucking action of your baby, stimulating your milk to come in (letdown reflex). Expressing shouldn't be painful.

Knowing which breast pump is right for you depends on:

- how often you plan to use a pump
- how much time you can spare for expressing

If you only need to express the odd feed, expressing by hand or using a cheaper manual pump may do. But if you work full-time and have to pump during a busy day, you might want to choose an ultrafast hospital-grade electric pump. These are expensive to buy, so you could hire one first to try it out.

If you're using a breast pump, try these tips:

- Sit comfortably with your back straight.

- Support your breast from underneath. Place your fingers flat on your ribs with your first finger between your breast and your ribs.

- Ease your nipple into the funnel. Make sure your nipple is in the centre of the funnel.

- Keep the funnel close enough to maintain a seal with your skin, without forcing it onto your breast.

- Be patient. It often takes a minute or two for your milk to flow well.

- Pump until the milk flow slows down, and then switch to the second breast. When the flow slows on the second breast, go back to the first. Finally, finish on the second when the flow slows for the second time.

- If you are pumping both breasts at the same time (double pumping), turn the pump off for 30 seconds or so when the flow slows. Then turn it back on and carry on until it slows again. Using a double pump can be tricky at first - you only have two hands! But keep practising and it will get easier.