While there are so many things about breastfeeding that we like for all breastfeeding mommies to know, there are a few quick tips we think moms should be armed with before they head home from delivery and start their breastfeeding adventure. One of the best tools to equip every mom with is how to properly utilize hand expression (a fancy word for squeezing milk out of your breast). There are certain times when hand expression will help ease a feeding and/or help with overall comfort for mommy.
Times hand expression is handy while breastfeeding:
- Sleepy baby. Hand expressing a drop of colostrum for baby to taste may help to wake and entice baby to latch. Also, if baby is too sleepy to latch for you early on, hand express colostrum into a spoon and spoon feed baby. (Ask staff/LC for assistance with this one)
- Newborn issues: Newborn issues such as jaundice or low blood sugar. Immediately after nursing your little one, hand express a few drops of colostrum to top baby off and hopefully expedite these newborn phases.
- Engorgement. Breasts become overly full or engorged giving baby trouble latching on. Hand express a little milk to soften your breasts prior to latching baby.
- NICU baby. Some moms find it difficult to express milk via a pump those first few days after delivery. Try to hand express and collect after each pump session.
Now that we know times we may use hand expression, how do we actually express our breast.
- Begin by doing a good breast massage. Use both hands and massage all around the breast, one at a time. (This helps stimulate the breast and that letdown, think of it kind of like a warm up before a workout).
- With one hand make a “C” shape about an inch behind the areola (the darker tissue around the nipple).
- Gently push back towards the chest then compress while gliding down the breast towards the nipple. Relax and repeat. It may take a few tries before the drops appear. As you continue to hand express the drops will get larger and larger.
Hand expression is a skill in and of itself just like breastfeeding. It takes a little practice to perfect. Once you get the hang of it you’ll find it to be an easy and useful tool. Following these few simple steps will help guide you through the process. Also, always remember if in doubt or need a little extra help ask your local lactation consultant, we love to help our mommies. Here’s a video about the process for those who are visual learners. Enjoy!