Hand Expression of Breastmilk
Reasons to Learn Hand Expression
There are many reasons to learn hand expression. In the first couple of days, if you are having trouble helping your baby latch on to your breast, hand express small amounts of colostrum onto a plastic spoon and give it to your baby. If your breasts become engorged, you will need to lessen this hardness by expressing milk.
By expressing, you will soften the breasts and make it easier for the milk to flow. If your breasts are hard, your baby may try to latch on and fail, or may try to start the flow of milk without success, causing him to fuss and cry or just give up and go to sleep. In order to make it easier for him, this is how you can soften the breast before you begin nursing.
To express milk, place your fingers, with your thumb and index finger one to two inches back from the areola (the dark-skinned area).
As you bring your fingers together, bring your hand backward and inward toward your chest, instead of outward toward your nipple. Keep in mind that what you are doing is applying pressure in back of the pools of milk that lie underneath the areola. Your milk will take a minute or so before it begins dripping.
After you have expressed enough milk so that the breasts have softened, compress the breast with the “U” hold described above so that your baby can latch on. If your baby becomes fussy or sleepy as you are trying to nurse him, squeeze some milk onto his lips or into his mouth to remind him of what he’s supposed to be doing.
How Often and How Long to Nurse
Since every mother and baby are different, there are no hard and fast rules for how often and how long to nurse. However, here are some general guidelines.
- Try to nurse your baby (using both breasts) at least eight times a day starting from day one. This is the best way to stimulate milk production.
- Nursing for longer periods of time (over 40 minutes) less often is not as effective for stimulating milk production as nursing for shorter periods of time more frequently.
- In the first two to three days, a baby will “cluster” his nursing sessions by nursing very often for several hours in the day and then sleeping for a long time. This is normal. However, nurse at least eight times a day in order to stimulate milk production. By the third to fourth day after your milk has come in, nursing will fall into a pattern. Although all babies don’t follow the same pattern, a common one would be the baby who nurses eight to 12 times per day for about 30 minute sessions. Nurse your baby until he seems to be full and relaxed.
This material was developed by Jane Morton, MD and produced for educational purposes only. Reproduction for commercial purposes is prohibited. Utilization and copying of the materials to improve care of pregnant women and their newborns is encouraged with proper citation of source.
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