Sunday, August 18, 2013

Why learn to how to hand-express breastmilk?

 It is breastfeeding month and I have not posted much about the topic recently.  I've thought about what new thing I've learned about breastfeeding and the first thing that came to mind is hand expressing breastmilk.

I'm not an expert in hand expressing  but I must say that learning how to do it has a lot of advantages.  I still need a lot of practice but I appreciate this skill more now as I breastfeed the twins (compared to my breastfeeding days with Ben three years ago) .

First of all,  my output in hand expressing milk is (usually) more compared to the pump.  This was particularly helpful when the twins were in the NICU and I had to leave expressed milk for them at night.  When I pumped, I barely produced enough for one baby but when I hand expressed, I was able to produce enough for two.  

Hand expressing is convenient and cost effective.  If you know how to hand express properly, you can do it anytime anywhere you're comfortable with.  All you need is a sterile container for your milk.  Sometimes, when I'm in a rush to leave the house, I'll be content with just bringing along a towel and a sterile bottle.  It's a good skill to have especially if you leave your pump behind or if it runs out of power.
Labor of love and of bare hands - still needs a lot of practice though!

Also, even if you have the pump, you'll notice that you can still hand express some milk after your pumping session.  It's more quiet than a pump, too!  When I express milk at night to build my supply for the twins, I usually end up hand expressing milk instead of setting up the pump.  This way there's less chance of waking up the kids and I save more time.

Another advantage of hand expressing is less chance if developing clogged ducts.  Hand expressing milk and massaging go hand in hand.   When you hand express, you can easily feel if you have lumps or which part of the breasts has clogged ducts that need attention.

So are you now convinced that this skill is "handy" as a breastfeeding mom? If yes, try learning it by watching the youtube video in this link :). As an added tip, should you decide to do it, try to find a way to make sure you "catch" the milk letdown from the breast you're not expressing from.  Every drop of that liquid gold counts!

Oh, and you do you know that you get more milk if you relax while hand-expressing? During our LATCH Breastfeeding Seminar last weekend, Velvet Escario-Roxas was able to observe me expressing milk.  She reminded me to take deep breaths because I was doing it too quickly.  Yes, those of you who know me are probably not surprised because it's part of my personality to always be in a hurry.  It just goes to show that breastfeeding, even when expressing milk, should be done with love.  Having to express milk for your baby may not be "fun".  Direct feeding your baby is always way better.  But when you do need that extra motivation to express milk for your child, just remind yourself of its benefits.

PS. It is my personal wish that most hospitals would be able to teach  moms of newborns how to hand-express.  It's quite empowering to see actual milk coming from you especially during the early days when you'd question yourself if your supply is enough.  While this skill is not strictly a "must" in order to successfully breastfeed, it can really be helpful.

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