Hand Expression Yields MORE Breastmilk

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Breast milk production slow? Give the electric pump a rest and give hand expression a try. Doctors say it helps build your breast milk supply.

Most new moms have enough to worry about, and added stress can interrupt breast milk supply. If you’re a mother of a preemie who spends time in the NICU, Baby will need your breast milk more than ever.

“If your baby goes to the NICU be sure to start pumping as soon as possible,” says Anna Morad, M.D., assistant professor of pediatrics at Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt. Doing so can help milk production. Just remember that a premature baby isn’t likely to begin nursing like a healthy, term baby would, adds Joy Ferrell, RN, International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) at TriStar StoneCrest Medical Center. “If the baby’s unable to nurse, it’s essential to get mom pumping with a hospital-grade double breast pump as soon as possible,” adds Ferrell. Mothers of full-term babies are also encouraged to begin breastfeeding as soon as possible.

If you notice that your milk has not come in or that there’s a decrease in the amount you’re expressing, doctors and nurses will tell you to just pump more often — which is all fine and well. However, what you may not know is that it could backfire on you. The American Academy of Pediatrics states that in a study published in the Journal of Perinatology, over-reliance on electric breast pumps may be associated with underproduction of breast milk. New moms need to be made aware that a hands-on approach is also beneficial under these circumstances.

If you’re stressed and pumping results in just a little or even nothing at all, don’t despair. “Using hand expression along with pumping has been shown to potentially increase Mom’s milk supply,” says Morad. “You should also make sure to see an IBCLC to help you get started and give you tips.” The method of hand expression is harder to do than to talk about. There is a technique to it, and your lactation consultant can help lead the way. Once you’ve established your technique and you’ve got a good flow of breast milk, feeding your baby will be an easier task.

If you’ve had a preemie, however, he may have to wait until he’s reached a certain stage before he can latch on to you to get the milk straight from the source. Just keep calm and remember that your balanced supply of milk is very beneficial to him. “When it’s safe,” continues Morad, “your baby should be allowed to be placed skin to skin (also called kangaroo care) on your chest and as often as the NICU will allow.” This contact is also a great way for your body to know that breast milk is in need. Sometimes, just holding your baby will make your milk flow.

“A mother’s pumping will allow her baby to get her colostrum/breast milk and help get her milk supply in,” says Ferrell. “This will allow nursing to go more smoothly when baby’s mature enough and able to nurse.”

 

Kiera Ashford is associate editor of Nashville Parent and mother of three.

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