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The Whys and Hows of Expressing Breast Milk

Step-by-Step Process

After a bit of practice, the routine of milk expression will become a piece of cake. Whether you use your hand or a breast pump, there are a few simple steps to follow to help get you started:
  • Make sure you have everything you need, including a sterilized pump and container and a nice tall glass of water (staying hydrated is crucial to maintaining a good milk supply)
  • Make sure to wash your hands
  • Get as comfortable and relaxed as you can
  • To help stimulate the let-down reflex, it may help to gently massage the breast and nipple area
  • Use your breast pump or express milk by hand.
This process should not hurt! Good breast pumps are made to mimic the sucking action of your baby and should not cause pain. If it hurts to use a pump, talk to your lactation specialist or healthcare provider.

How Much Do I Need to Express?

This is a tough question to answer! Try not to worry so much about quantity. Whether you are pumping after your baby nurses to just empty your breasts, or if you are pumping to store the milk for a later time, there are many variables that can affect how much breast milk is expressed each time.
In general, babies take between two and four ounces of breast milk at each feeding. When storing milk, try to store it in quantities of four ounces or less to prevent wasting precious breast milk.
(Click How to Store Breast Milk and How to Reheat Breast Milk for more tips on how to properly handle and store breast milk.)

Most Importantly -- Relax!

We can spend all day talking about the ins and outs of trying to breastfeed, express, pump, and store breast milk -- to the point that all the information becomes too overwhelming. The important thing is to relax! Each situation is unique -- both for the mother and her little one. Keep trying until you find the right routine -- when to breastfeed, when to pump, and how much to pump. It will all come with a little time, a little patience, and a little practice. Relaxing and minimizing stress will help keep both mom and baby happy!
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