It is possible to express milk. This allows you to empty your breast of milk to store it for future use, or can be done to help relieve engorged breasts or blocked ducts.
All mums producing breast milk should be able to express milk using their hands. As well as a quick and free way to collect and store your milk, hand expressing is a vital skill to ensure breast health and prevent problems like blocked ducts and mastitis from getting worse.
Some mums like to use a breast pump to express their milk, especially if they have a baby in special baby care. In hospital it is possible to use very efficient double pumps so you can pump both breasts at the same time.
When you get home with your baby you may want to express milk to store for future use. There are lots of hand pumps and electric pumps available to buy or rent and it’s just a matter of trying them out and seeing which ones suit you best.
They all work in a similar way. They have a suction cup that fits completely over the nipple and creates suction with a vacuum. The pump is operated either by hand or with electric power.
Take some time to learn how to use them – don’t put yourself under pressure. Don’t be starting work on Monday and trying to learn to pump on the Saturday, instead build up your skill in expressing so you have learned how to do it by the time you need to be expressing and storing milk – eg if you are going back to work and want to still provide your baby with your breast milk. So just practise and teach yourself to do it. Your body is used to giving milk to a baby, and now you’re asking it to give it to a plastic cup!
Remember that touch helps the hormones to flow. If you haven’t got the baby with you, try thinking about your baby, looking at a photo of her, or massaging your breast with something like a warm flannel first. This will help the hormones and your milk to flow, and then just use the pump following the instructions. Practice is the thing.