One of the benefits of breastfeeding is that you can express it, and still produce more! In most cases when your breasts fill up quickly, extracting it will help reduce and prevent engorgement. Plus, you can store breast milk to use it in a time when you can’t breastfeed.
“How do I express milk?” you might ask. There are two ways: you can do this by hand or with breast pump.
To express your milk by hand
- Wash your hands and prepare a clean and sterilized container to store the milk.
- Gently massage all the areas of your breast while watching a picture or video of your little one, as this helps stimulate milk production.
- Place one hand under your breast and the other above. Move down the hand you have above to reach the areola. Continue massaging the breast evenly until your let down reflex begins.
- Now, with your dominant hand, place your thumb on top of your breast and the rest of your fingers -from the index finger to the little one- under. Press all your fingers towards the edge of the areola, being careful not to squeeze the nipple. With repeated movement milk will start to come out.
- Repeat the above movement changing position of your fingers to extract milk evenly from all the milk ducts in your breast.
To express milk using a breast pump
There are many types of breast pumps. Which should you choose? Try to pick a high quality pump with good reviews. A low quality one will not provide an adequate expression and might even hurt you. When choosing you can also select either an electric or manual breast pumps. The electric one may be more expensive but they are most efficient. If you would like to use an electric pump, an affordable way to do so, is to rent it from a lactation center or a hospital. Make sure the one you choose has the option of changing suction pressure levels. If you like, you can also choose a pump that expresses milk from both breasts at the same time.
How long does the expression last? The answer is simple. You can pump milk until only a few drops come out or at any moment you desire before that. When done, you can store the milk in the refrigerator and use it within 3-6 days. You can also freeze it and use it up to 9 months after extraction if it is in a separate door freezer at a temperature of 0ºF, or up to 12 months if it is in a chest freezer at -4ºF. Remember to keep it in the back and not at the door. If left at room temperature make sure to store within the first 4 hours, as leaving out of refrigeration for longer may cause it to expire and never refreeze it.