Express Breast Milk
To express breast milk is to pump the breast milk out of your breasts. It sort of reminds you of cows.... but don't go there! Just think of think of it as another way of delivering beautiful, wonderful, nutritious breast milk.
What do you do after you express breast milk? You can feed it to Baby right away; stored it in the refrigerator (or freezer), give it away (who would you do that?), or throw it away (why would you do that?). Read on and learn all about expressed breast milk.
Benefits of Expressed Milk
Expressing milk does not hurt, but compared to breastfeeding, it is somewhat work intensive. Generally speaking, you may need to:
- buy a breast pump,
- wash and sterilize everything,
- pump the milk out of your breast,
- and then feed your baby with the expressed milk.
In addition to doing extra work, you also loose the skin-to-skin contact that occurs during breastfeeding. So why do women express their milk? Here are some of the benefits - maybe you will be enticed to express breast milk too:
Not everyone express breast milk for convenience and freedom; some women express breast milk because they have to.
- One major benefit is that Dad (or any other care provider) can feed Baby when the breast milk is in a bottle.
- Expressed milk allows you, the Mom, to go for a walk or a short trip without worrying that Baby will be hungry while you are gone. Expressing breast milk may be your ticket to a few hours of freedom and regained independence!
- Expressed breast milk still contains all the nutrients and antibodies that breastfeeding offers. It's a better alternative than baby formula.
Who Expresses Breast Milk and Why?
Mothers who like breast milk but don’t like breastfeeding
Some women understand that breast milk is the best food for babies and want to give their baby a healthy start in life. However, they do not like the idea of having a baby slammed up against their chest. They see other women breastfeeding and they think “I’m not doing that!” These women are not familiar with, not comfortable with, not interested in, and will not breastfeed. For them, expressing milk and giving it to Baby in a bottle is the best choice!
Mothers who do not want to breastfeed in public
Some mothers enjoy breastfeeding their babies but do not want to do so in public. Having the breast milk expressed and placed in a bottle is the perfect answer. It allows them to leave the house with the knowledge that Baby can have breast milk without Mother exposing her breasts to the general public.
It is recommended that you do not introduce bottle feeding until Baby and you have established a functional breastfeeding relationship. Providing Baby with breast and bottle may lead to “nipple confusion”. Here baby gets confused because the jaw muscles used during breastfeeding is different from the muscles used during bottle feeding. Babies who start on a bottle too early may end up refusing the breast.
Mothers who have multiple births
A mother of twins can breastfeed her babies, this is called tandem nursing. A mother of triplets can breastfeed her babies too, but it will be hard and she will need help. She will need to eat nutritious food and drink at least 3 liters (3.5 quarts) of liquid everyday to sustain this intense level of activity.
It's a bit of a juggle to breastfeed multiple babies: so, despite the fact that you can breastfeed twins/triplets, most women will express their milk, or go formula. Having the milk expressed will allow others to feed the babies so that Mother is not left to feed all the babies, all the time.
Many twins/triplets are born premature so they may be too weak to suck from the breast. Expressed breast milk is the answer!
Mothers going back to work
You may have seen photos of Moms breastfeeding their infants while at the office, but this scenario is fairly rare.First of all, how many women have a private office that has a door with a lock on it? Second, if your baby is screaming with hunger, could you leave a business meeting or hang-up on a client to feed your baby? Third, it takes 20 to 40 minutes to breastfeed from both breasts. If you do this twice during work hours, this would add up to one or two hours of “work” time where you are not actually working. Thus, breastfeeding at the workplace is not always possible. (Some countries may have policies that encourage mothers to breastfeed at work, but this is not the case in Canada and USA).
Women who go back to work and want to continue feeding their baby breast milk will express breast milk. The care provider will then feed the baby with a bottle containing expressed milk. Expressing milk is a win-win situation for Baby and Mother.
After six weeks of maternity leave, Annie had to go back to work. She expressed milk three times a day: when she woke up, when she got home from work; and right before she went to bed at night. “Doesn’t your breast leak?” I asked. “Nah,” she replied, “your body gets used to the pattern and the milk comes at the right time.”
Mothers who have mastitis or an abscess
Mothers who have a breast infection such as mastitis should get help from a doctor. After treatment (usually antibiotics), it is important to empty-out the milk from the infected breast. Emptying-out the milk serves to flush out the bacteria from within. It prevents re-infection and helps the breast heal.
One way to empty out the breast is to put Baby on the infected breast first. For whatever reason, if Baby does not empty out the infected breast, a woman should pump the remaining milk out. This expressed milk should be thrown away because it may contain bacteria.
Mothers who have babies that cannot latch on
Some premature babies and babies born with birth defects (clef lip or palate), may find it difficult to latch and suck on a breast. Here, mothers can express breast milk and have the milk fed to their babies (in a bottle, a cup, or a tube). Expressing milk is the perfect resolution since these special babies are more susceptible to infection, so they need the antibodies found in breast milk.
Mothers who wish to donate milk
Some mothers truly believe that breast milk is the perfect food for babies: they express breast milk and donate it to people who cannot make breast milk. Here, she will express her milk, freeze it, and send it packed with ice. These mother are true troupers! Expressing milk is time consuming enough in itself, but to express breast milk to be given away is going beyond the call of duty. Milk banks are organizations which will screen, accept, sterilize, store, and distribute human breast milk.
Despite all medical efforts, sometimes babies do not survive and no one is as devastated as the mother. All her dreams of holding, feeding and loving a baby are dashed. Her womb is empty and the crib is empty too. Strangely, her breasts are not. The milk making machinery inside the breasts have been changing to meet the demands of breastfeeding and they are primed to go. Here, a mother may decide to express breast milk and donate it to the Milk Bank. It takes a strong woman to do this, perhaps it is of consolation to her to know that although she cannot feed her own child, she can feed someone else’s child.