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Methods for Expressing Breast Milk

What is the procedure for expressing breast milk manually

  • Hold your breast at the outer portion, away from the areola (the coloured part of the nipple), using both hands. 
  • Your hands should cup your breast, with your fingers positioned below your breast and the thumb above. 
  • Now squeeze the breast gently and firmly. Repeat this procedure about ten times at different points around the breast, but at the same level. 
  • Now move your hands closer to the nipple in the same cupped position and begin squeezing again. The aim is to coerce the milk down from the milk ducts to the areola. 
  • Next, hold your breast in one hand and press the outer edge of the areola to express the milk. Do not squeeze the nipple. 
  • You can also express breast milk using the palm of one hand while holding the breast in the palm of the other. 
  • You should stop expressing milk when it ceases to come as a jet and starts coming in drops. 

What are the different kinds of breast pumps and how do they work

Bulb or 'bicycle horn' pumps: 
When the bulb is squeezed, it creates a suction effect, which draws the milk out of the breast. While these are cheap, they are not very effective, difficult to clean (which may lead to unsanitary milk collection), and may cause sore nipples.

Trigger-operated pumps: 
Every time you squeeze the trigger, suction is created. While it requires the use of only one hand, it may not be convenient for women who do not have large strong hands. In addition, they are breakable, being made of glass. Another disadvantage of glass is that nutrients from the mother's milk may adhere to a glass surface. This does not happen with plastic.

Syringe pump: 
This pump has two cylinders fitted one inside another. The inner cylinder is placed over the nipple, while the outer cylinder is pushed in and out, creating suction. This is the most popular breast pump. It is easy to use and clean, reasonably priced, portable and can also be used as a feeding bottle.

Convertible manual pump: 
The advantage of this pump is that it has an electrical connection and can also be used manually when electricity is not available. 

Battery operated pump: 
While these pumps have the advantage of portability, they are not as powerful as electric pumps. The rate at which the batteries have to be replaced does not make them a viable option in terms of cost and practicality. 

Electric pump: 
While these pumps have convenience, speed and user-friendliness on their side, their prohibitive cost is a stumbling block. However, if time is of the essence for the mother, then an electric pump may be a worthwhile investment. 

Any other tips for expressing breast milk

  • If you are pumping your breast manually, keep a sterilized bowl, container and a funnel handy. Wash your hands before you begin expressing milk.
  • Choose a time of the day when your breasts are fullest. You should expect to pump your breast once every three or four hours if you need to store the milk. On an average, each collection can take from 20 minutes to 40 minutes.
  • If you are using a pump, make sure that it is sterilized. Clean it immediately after you have finished collecting the milk. Carry a bottle brush and detergent with you if you are away from home. 
  • Choose a time when you will have privacy and will not be interrupted by doorbells, telephone calls, etc.
  • While you may wash your hands with soap and water, avoid using soap, creams or ointments on your nipples. 
  • Drink a full glass of water, juice, soup, etc. before you begin. A warm drink may better stimulate the milk ducts.
  • Get yourself into a comfortable position.
  • Relax and unwind before you begin. Listening to music or meditating may be a good idea.
  • Think about your baby, apply hot fomentation to your nipples for five to ten minutes, take a hot shower, or massage your breasts. All this should make it easier for the milk to come down.
  • An oxytocin nasal spray (only to be used after consulting your doctor) enhances letdown reflex in case of major difficulty. 

Is manual pumping better than pumping with an electrical pump

Although a breast pump is quite expensive, if you get comfortable using it, then it is probably a more convenient and faster option than manual pumping.  However, many women have difficulty getting used to it, even after making the initial investment.  Manual pumping is a long and tedious procedure and sometimes the amount of milk collected does not justify the time and effort invested in the procedure. But it still seems the most popular alternative.

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