Expressing breastmilk: Tips for more success

Worried that baby’s nutrition may be affected when you go back to work? Express and freeze it!

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When you express, you can involve your spouse or a caregiver in baby’s feeds, especially at night. A mother can also offer expressed breastmilk if her infant cannot make a good latch, points out Helen Espina Cruz, a senior lactation consultant at Raffles Hospital.

          If a mother cannot be with her baby as it is premature or ill, expressing encourages the brain to release prolactin, the hormone that triggers breastmilk production. As long as the mum maintains her breastmilk supply, expressing also helps prevent the breasts from becoming engorged, Cruz adds.

          Also, not all women feel comfortable about breastfeeding directly. Some prefer to use a bottle, so that they can keep track of how much baby drinks. Then there are babies born with conditions such as tongue-tie or cleft lip/palate, which makes it difficult for them to feed at the breast, explains Cynthia Pang, assistant director of nursing and senior lactation consultant at KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital.

          You can pick one of three ways to express your milk: Using a manual pump, an electric one or express by hand. Choose a breast pump wisely, especially if you have tight schedules or are planning to go back to work, Cruz advises.

          It’s important to set aside adequate time to express. “It takes at least 15 to 20 minutes to pump each breast. Gently massage your breasts in between to help stimulate more milk collection,” Cruz says. On average, a mother should be able to produce 450 to 500ml from a single breast within 24 hours, she adds. The more the mum breastfeeds or expresses, the more milk she produces. The “best time” to express, Cruz notes, is when you are relaxed because it’s easier to elicit a let- down, which boosts your milk yield.

          “The average woman — who expresses exclusively — should be able to produce 600 to 800ml of milk per 24 hours some 10 days after delivery,” says Pang.

          If you plan to switch from latching on your baby to expressing, Cruz has this advice, “Enjoy and master breastfeeding for at least a month to establish your milk volume and for baby to master the latch. Then, gradually introduce bottled breastmilk, so baby will get used to the texture of the teat.”