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Baby's Diet Topics..

You are here : home > Baby's Diet > Breastfeeding > The Need for Expressing Milk

The Need for Expressing Milk

There are many situations in which expressing breastmilk is useful and important to enable a mother to initiate or continue breastfeeding.

Expressing milk is useful to:
  • Relieve engorgement;
  • Relieve blocked duct or milk stasis;
  • Feed a baby while he is learning to suckle from an inverted nipple;
  • Feed a baby who has difficulty in coordinating suckling;
  • Feed a baby who 'refuses', while he learns to enjoy breastfeeding;
  • Feed a low-birth-weight baby who cannot breastfeed;
  • Feed a sick baby, who cannot suckle enough;
  • Keep up the supply of breastmilk when baby is sick or when the mother has mastitis, sore nipple  or has to leave breastmilk for her baby when she goes out to work;
  • Prevent leaking when a mother is away from her baby;
  • Help a baby to attach to a full breast;
  • Express breastmilk directly into a baby's mouth;
It is a good idea for all mothers to learn how to express their breastmilk, so that they know what to do if the need arises.

The most useful way for a mother to express milk is by hand. It needs no appliance, so she can do it anywhere and at any time. With a good technique, it can be very efficient. It is easy to hand express when the breasts are soft. It is more difficult when the breasts are engorged or tender. So it is good to learn how to hand express soon after delivery.

Many mothers are able to express plenty of breastmilk using rather strange techniques. If a mother's technique works for her, we let her do it that way. But if a mother is having difficulty expressing enough milk, she may like to learn a more effective technique. Before one learns expression of breastmilk it is important to know other ways to stimulate hormones necessary for milk secretion (prolactin) and for milk flow (oxytocin).

Stimulating the prolactin reflex

Mothers may stimulate nipple and areola to help in prolactin secretion. This is done with a gentle stroke on breast, light touch with fingers on the areola and by gently rubbing nipple between thumb and index finger.
Prolactin reflex may not work as well when a mother stimulates her nipple and areola as it does when a baby suckles.

Stimulating the oxytocin reflex
The oxytocin reflex may not work as well when a mother expresses as it does when a baby suckles. The mother should know how to help her oxytocin reflex otherwise she may find it difficult to express her milk.

*From: ‘Infant and Young Child Feeding Counselling Training Course’ developed by Breastfeeding Promotion Network of India (BPNI) and International Baby Food Action Network (IBFAN), Asia.

How to Stimulate The Oxytocin Reflex?

In the absence of hospital staff, a supportive friend or a relative or a Malishwali (Masseure) can help stimulate this reflux.
The mother is helped psychologically by:
  • Building her confidence
  • Reduce any sources of pain or anxiety
  • Helping her to have good thoughts and feelings about the baby

Practical help for mother

  • Sit quietly and privately or with a supportive friend (Some mothers can express easily in a group of other mothers who are also expressing for their babies).
  • Hold the baby with skin-to-skin contact if possible (She can hold her baby on her lap while she expresses. If this is not possible, she can look at the baby. If this is not possible, sometimes even looking at a photograph of her baby helps).
  • Take a warm soothing drink. The drink should not be coffee.
  • Warm her breasts. For example, apply a warm compress, or warm water, or have a warm shower.
  • Stimulate her nipples. She can gently pull or roll her nipples with her fingers.
  • Massage or stroke her breasts lightly.
  • Some women find that it helps if they stroke the breast gently with finger tips or with a comb. Some women find that it helps to gently roll their closed fist over the breast towards the nipple.
  • Ask a helper to rub her back. - The mother sits down, leans forward, folds her arms on a table in front of her, and rests her head on her arms. Her breasts hang loose, unclothed. The helper rubs down both sides of the mothers spine. She uses her closed fist with her thumbs pointing forwards. She presses firmly making small circular movements with her thumbs. She works down both sides of the spine at the same time, from the neck to the shoulder blades, for two or three minutes.

Fig.2511: A helper rubbing a mother's back to stimulate the oxytocin reflex

How to Prepare A Container For Expressed Breastmilk (EBM)
  • Choose a cup, glass, jug or jar with a wide mouth.
  • Wash the cup with soap and water. (Mother can do this the day before.)
  • Pour boiling water into the cup and leave it for a few minutes. Boiled water will kill most of the germs.
  • When ready to express the milk, pour the water out of the cup.

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Sort by Newest

.4 years ago
There is no enough milk and my nipple is sore. My child is unable to control her hunger. I started with feeding formula bottle milk, which is worrying her health and growth. Please guide me
s dutta.5 years ago
can intake of cow milk more than 500 ml in a day at the age of 3.5 years is injurious for a baby or it may create any kind of disease further.some of persons at my locality said that its harmful.please clear me because my baby could n't take much food.
.8 years ago
Hi all,
i'm unable to express milk & my baby also not interested in my milk,
can anyone suggest me what shuld be taken for increase the qty of milk
Naina.9 years ago
i really din't know much about expressing breast milk. i am a working woman and am 4 month pregnant. expressing breast milk article is really a boon to me. thanks!
i am a working women. i am trying to expressing and giving my baby the milk in a bottle so that he is habituated of this when i am out. he is now 3 months old and need atleast 100 ml for each feed. but on one time expression only around 20 ml is coming.what can be done to incease the amount of milk?
RMM.9 years ago
hi naina!

in case u are a working woman expressing milk is the best way to continue wz breastfeed for yr baby.u get these breast pumps-manual as well electric.i wd suggest a manual pump-"avent" is my personal choice.u can pump milk at the baby's regular feed time at yr work place and leave it in the refrigerator for the baby for next day.

hope this will help.
oh yes, for the first day u will hv to express milk once a day for a week so that u have enough for day one.
link to articles
Rekha.9 years ago
please could somebody tell me from where we can buy a breast pump in bangalore. i have checked in most places including cash pharmacy. i could only find "hard breast relievers" and not breast pumps through which i could express milk for my 3 month old son whom i leave in a creche while i am in office. please you may write to my e-mail id : with details of shops
Melanie.9 years ago
hi jaya, when expressing breast milk you have to make sure you are expressing every 3-4 hours, waiting any longer will only give you a small amount. make sure you drink lots of water and eat well. you are best to eat & drink when expressing milk. also make sure you massage your breasts before you start. if you aren't producing enough breast milk you can always alternate with formula.
rachelle.9 years ago
thanks for the info on how long breast milk lasts i thought it only lasted an hour after pumping... thanks agian!
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