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Worldwide, breastfeeding is considered as the primary mode of infant feeding and the most convenient one. Let’s discuss how a lactating mother can start expressing breast milk, how it can help and why a mother can consider breast milk expression during her entire journey of breastfeeding.
When we talk about breast milk expression, it generally means to some that the entire breastfeeding can be done using expression method when there is difficulty feeding directly from the breasts. Well, but expression of breast milk for every feed can be tiring, and would not be very convenient to consider expressed breast milk as the primary mode for infant feeding as the stimulation to the breast for producing more milk is not as good as in direct breastfeeding. This results in reduction in supply over a period of time. Hence, it is often advised to continue to directly breastfeed, and alongside, a mother can express her breast milk and store it for use later whenever she wants to.
Expression can be done using hands after learning the technique from a lactation consultant or any trained healthcare staff. It is called ‘Hand Expression’.
Electrical or manual pumps for expressing breast milk could also be considered after 2 days of childbirth. Note that these pumps would not be very useful soon after birth as there is colostrum, which is a very dense and sticky milk and is not produced in larger quantity to be collected in the bottle after pumping. Having said that, colostrum is produced in most of mothers soon after birth in enough quantity to satisfy the hunger of your baby when fed on demand.
It will be helpful if before expressing, a mother applies a hot compress using the simple hot water and towel method. Avoid using heating pads or electrical pads as it can cause redness or superficial burns on the skin. Instead, dipping a towel in warm water and keeping it for 5-10 minutes by covering the breast, can actually help in milk let down, relax your breasts and make it ready for expression.
One session of breast milk expression may last for about 20-25 minutes for each breast. After breast milk expression, cold packs or cold compress can be applied on the breasts for about 5-10 minutes to ease out the skin and breast tissue.
Freshly expressed breast milk could be stored at room temperature for about 4-6 hours.
The milk can be stored in the refrigerator for about 4 days. Avoid keeping the milk in the fridge door as it will cause temperature difference. Always try keeping in the shelf.
Breast milk can also be stored in a freezer for about 6 months. This milk can be thawed under warm water. But avoid heating and refreezing the milk. It can be fed to the baby by using a small spoon and a bowl.
Avoid feeding using bottle as bottle feeding may cause nipple confusion and may interfere with breastfeeding process.
Well, there are enough benefits and reasons for this.
* Expressing milk helps in draining the excess flow of milk which helps in preventing heaviness on the breasts – also called as engorgement.
* It relieves blocked ducts or milk stasis, helps in shaping up the nipples if they are flat or inverted.
* It also helps in reducing leakage when mother is away from baby.
* Expressed breast milk can be really helpful even after 6 months of age of your baby for working moms as anyone in the house can feed expressed breast milk to the baby.
In all, breast milk expression can be a great method to learn for moms to have some breast milk as an option whenever the need arises. All the best and happy breastfeeding!