The Art of Expressing is one of the most liberating skills that a mother can have, which is why I always take extra time to set my mothers upon the path to successful expressing. Get this right, and your early months of motherhood can take on a new lease of life. Whether a quick trip to the store, or the eventual return to work, this is your chance to have time to yourself, comfortable in the knowledge that your baby is still benefiting from your wonderful milk whilst in the care of someone else. Being comfortable with a pump can also relieve that awful heavy feeling as your breasts fill with milk, allowing production to remain plentiful and your feeding routine to be maintained.
In the initial stages of learning to express you might feel confident having passed the first test of breastfeeding with flying colours. Mothers – be warned. Mastering the Art of Expressing is the equivalent to obtaining your black belt in milk. Wholly unnatural and faced with a contraption that would look better on a cow’s udder, most mothers run at the first opportunity. Fortunately, as with most things in life, there are ways to make them easier. I have found the following pieces of advice to be consistently successful and invaluable in my many years as a Nanny. My lovely mums have confirmed them to work and I hope that you will find them useful.
First of all, find the time of day that works for you, ideally one when you feel unflustered, undistracted, and unflappable. This may require carving out a time of day when baby is being taken care of, or comfortably asleep. Find the time that works best for you and do not be afraid to experiment. Seize the chance to try at different times of the day to see how it compares. For most mums however, they do not have the liberty of time and it may be a case of grabbing a window when you can. This is obviously fine, but you must be able to mentally switch off, and enter what I like to call the stage of milk enlightenment…’Zen Express’.
Now, a few points to consider before you start. Posture is something that we should all be aware of, particularly when pregnant. Try to carry this through to breast-feeding by finding somewhere to sit comfortably with a straight back. Don’t slump! Put your shoulders back and protrude your chest, ready to do business. Once the milk starts to flow, lean forward slightly to avoid any milk dribbles onto your clothes. Accidents do happen so keep a muslin or hand towel to hand to catch any naughty drips. And this may sound self-serving but more than likely you’ll feel both hungry and thirsty whilst expressing so make sure you have a cool glass of water to hand, and most importantly, a nice slab of chocolate cake.
Once equipped and in position, you are ready to start. In the first few attempts at expressing, I recommend either massaging your breasts or laying a warm washcloth on them before hand, for a couple of minutes. This is definitely one of those areas where a keen partner can get involved! The reason being that you don’t have baby to stimulate your nipples so this is a great way of replicating that sensation. Some might recommend taking a shower before starting to express, though this is less practical and not always convenient.
Give your breasts a bit of support by placing your hand flat upon your ribcage, letting your first finger rest between your breast and your ribs. Your nipple needs to sit in the dead centre of the funnel. Do this be easing your nipple gently into position. Given that your breasts are likely to be sensitive, never force a seal with the funnel, Ease it gently against your breast until contact is made, and hold it firmly into position without pushing too hard.
The secret is patience, something that mothers fortunately have in abundance so do not be deterred. Let your milk take time to flow and resist the temptation to stare at your nipples like watching paint dry. Relax, breathe deeply and wait. Some mothers follow the old advice of having photos of their babies in view. For you, it might be a picture of Brad Pitt. Whatever it takes to keep your mind optimistic and at ease.
As soon as that milk is flowing faster than Daisy the Cow, allow yourself to remain in your state of Zen Express. Some mothers prefer complete silence and no distractions, whilst others see it as a chance to catch up on movies, emails or a good natter with friends. Whatever you choose, the key is to keep your mind relaxed and at ease, so go with something you enjoy rather than something you feel you should be doing in a brief moment of peace.
Once the milk flow slows down in your first breast, switch to the second. Check that you haven’t caused a ring mark on your breasts from pushing the funnel too hard. If you have, try to relax your hold. Return to your first breast once the flow in the second breast has slowed, then back to the second, as before. If you have opted for a double pump, allow your breasts to rest for a minute once the flow has slowed, by turning off the pump. Breathe deeply, relax and then resume pumping. Double pumps are brilliant for saving time but do require a bit of practice. Worth it, I say.
Now, if your nipples are sore from breastfeeding, you may have to consider giving the pump a rest for a couple of days. Apply some nipple cream and try expressing to see how they feel afterwards. On the one hand, it may provide relief from baby’s sucking, but on the other hand, the suction of the pump might be drying them out more. You need to be the judge, but as ever, if you are unsure, contact your health provider for some secondary advice.
I hope these tips prove helpful with my concluding remark being to relax and enjoy – easier said than done! I would also encourage all mothers to post comments on my blog, which allows their experiences to be shared, and you may also email me at [email protected].
About the Author
Nanny M is the author of leading IPhone App, NannyAppâ„¢. She has been a Norland Nanny for 14 years, during which time she has worked across the globe, from Europe and Russia to South East Asia and the USA. She has experience working with all shapes and types of family from Royalty to a single parent student, and has cared for children from maternity through to Governess. Nanny M has cared for a wide variety of children from the most well balanced to the very challenging, including children with special needs. She espouses British style childcare and the ‘added value’ of the Norlander. She is super, and qualified. Take a look at her app!