Expressing breast milk is a way you can remove milk from your breasts without feeding baby directly. There are three different methods you can use to do this: by hand, manual pump and electric pump. If you plan to breastfeed your baby, it’s important to learn about each method to help you continue breastfeeding with harming your milk supply. Expressing Mama have explored each option and the benefits and disadvantages of each.
3 Methods of Expressing Breast Milk
Expressing breast milk by hand is known as the Cinderella method of expression, as most moms don’t consider it. Hand expression is a technique that all breastfeeding mothers should learn. For around 3-5 days after baby is born you will produce small amounts of colostrum until your ‘mature milk supply starts to establish. Babies are sometimes sleepy after birth and don’t take to the breast straight away. Hand expressing colostrum is a great way to prevent them losing weight and maintain their energy levels. A breast pump isn’t suitable to express colostrum as the tiny volume may get lost within the various parts. You should consider hand expression over a breast pump if you are looking for an expression method that is cheap, silent, convenient and natural. Working moms may want to consider hand expression if they have adequate pump breaks at work.
How to Hand Express
Hand expressing can be used to soften your breast and stimulate your ‘let down’ reflex, before using a breast pump. Once a feed is finished a quick hand expression can ensure that your breast has been emptied by the pump. Both of these methods will ensure you keep your milk supply high and get the most from your breast pump.
You will need to learn the correct technique to hand expressing. Once you feel comfortable with the technique, it should take your around 20 minutes to empty a breast. You will also be able to express both breasts at the same time, simply place two sterile collection containers on a table to catch the milk.
Hand expression can be quite messy due to unpredictable milk spray. If you want to ensure you catch every last drop from your hand pump session then we recommend the Hygeia Manual Expression Cup. This cup is love by moms who hand express as it makes the process really convenient. The big cup is designed for women with small and large breasts and anywhere in between. We love that it collects your breast milk straight into a feeding bottle, so no decanting to save on washing up. All the parts are suitable for a dishwasher and a sterilizer for quick and easy cleaning.
Breast Pump Expression
There are many reasons modern others are using breast pumps. The most common reasons are returning to work or the convenience of expressed milk for occasional separation from baby. The best breast pump for you will in part depend on how often you need to use it. Let’s look at the two types of breast pump.
Manual Breast Pumps
These pumps are most often operated by hand with a squeeze lever. Other manual breast pump models include piston style handles or even foot operated pumps. This type of pump is like a middle ground between hand expression and an electric pump. The suction is created by manual effort with your hand (or foot) forming a vacuum between the pump and your breast. Unlike hand expression you won’t need to learn a specific technique to express the milk. Using a manual pump can be hard work as you need to keep a constant speed for around 20 minutes which can lead to hand fatigue.
Who should use a Manual Pump?
We recommend a manual breast pump if you have an established milk supply and need to express milk occasionally and no more than a few times a week. If you are working part time a manual pump may suffice, however if you return to work full time we recommend an electric pump. Even if you opt for an electric breast pump you may want to consider having a manual ‘back up’ pump to cover you in case of any problems with your electric pump. Manual breast pumps are relatively inexpensive, quiet and very portable if you travel a lot or take a pump to work. These contain a lot less parts than an electric breast pump, which makes them easier to clean and sterilize for optimal hygiene.
The Lansinoh manual breast pump is currently the top rated hand operated pump on the market. Its highly recommend by other expressing mums for its comfort and ease of use. Most moms with an adequate milk supply fins they can empty a breast in around 15 minutes with this pump. There is no need to worry the breast shield won’t fit as other users have stated they have had no problems using this pump even if you have large breasts. For under $35 we’d say this in an expressing investment worth making, especially if you plan to have more children in the future.
Electric Breast Pumps
Just like the name suggest an electric breast pump works by an electric powered motor creating a vacuum suction to express your breast milk. Electric breast pumps come in three different categories.
1. Hospital Grade
These are the gold standard of breast pumps. You will mostly find these pumps available to use within the hospital setting for moms with ill or premature babies. They are specially designed with highly efficient and powerful piston motors to keep your milk supply very high. You can purchase one of theses for personal use but they are extremely expensive. You can rent these pump for short term use, we suggest you shop around as pricing can vary widely. Moms who use these types of pumps often have severe supply issues or need to keep their supply high for twins, triplets or more.
2. High Powered Personal Use
Most mums who are looking for an electric breast pump will use this category. Depending on the features of the pump you should be looking to pay around $100-$400. Features of these pump usually included adjustable suction speed and cycle length. This is great for personalising the setting to make the suction comfortable for you. These pumps are suited mostly to moms who will be expressing anything for 2-12 times a day. If you are returning to work full time this is the type of pump you should buy, otherwise your milk supply may slow down. This type of pump can also help when you or baby have any health issues including sore nipples, mastitis, thrush or tongue tie. There is a huge variety within this range so make sure you have a pump effective enough for your needs.
3. Battery Powered Personal Use
Consider these pumps the next step up from a manual breast pump. Just like a manual pump these are designed for occasional use when you have a good milk supply. The benefit of this type of pump is that it removes the effort required with a manual pump and saves achy arms. Although slightly more expensive than a manual, these are still and economical choice if you don’t need to pump frequently. These pumps will require you to keep a supply of batteries to use. We recommend buying the rechargeable kind to keep costs down in the long run.
Electric breast pumps can also come into a single or double pump category. A double pump will allow you to express from both breasts at the same time. This speeds up your expressing session by collecting twice the milk you would with a single pump, in the same time frame. A double pump will also increase your milk supply as your hormones will be stimulate your brain to think it need to provide enough milk for a very hungry baby or multiples. A single pump is much more budget friendly. We would recommend one if you are not concerned about the time it take to pump up to a maximum of twice a day.