The benefits of breastmilk for infants are well known, and many women persevere despite difficulties with expressing and feeding. It is a deeply personal and fulfilling relationship with your baby to feed them, hold them close and see them grow. Many mothers spend hours balancing work, family commitments and expressing milk in order for their babies to receive the rich health benefits of their mother’s milk.
It is with these positive and best intentions that mums approach expressing breastmilk. However, all mothers experience their own challenges and successes. This is a shout-out to all the mums who have struggled, persevered, succeeded, hit a bump and kept going!
Holly, mother to two year old Imogen and four month old Spencer relates, “The worst thing is that mums are told, ‘let's try expressing and see how much milk you have,’ then when they don’t get any they panic and think they have low supply.
A common misconception is that the amount of milk you express is indicative of your supply. A variety of factors can influence how much milk you are able to express. Everyday life distractions, stress, hydration, temperature and time of day can all influence your ability to express a generous amount of milk.
She says, “The best thing you can do is relax – I got 50mL each side while watching a movie!”
Learning to express effectively can take time and knowing specifically how and why you are expressing is crucial. If you are confused or concerned then ask questions of your healthcare provider. If they are not providing you with the guidance you need then seek advice elsewhere.
Joanna says, “I had to express to stimulate because Elias was not sucking hard enough. Unfortunately the community nurse did not explain the reason why I had to express, hence when I hardly got a drop out, I felt like a failure. I had to hand stimulate. No one showed me how to, everyone just assumed I knew. I ended up having to stimulate both breasts for about ten minutes each, eight times a day for about a week and a half.”
Making sure that you have a quality pump is the first step to easing the challenges of expressing, but knowing your body and working with your lifestyle and routine will also help you get the most out of expressing for your bub.
Rachelle, mum to nine month old Maddi says, “I was thinking back to when I started expressing and how long it took and then Maddi wouldn't drink it. I would get so frustrated! But I persevered and continued to express every week only for her to reject it over and over again! A little piece of me broke inside every time I poured my hard earned milk bottle down the sink! But I also remember celebrating my ‘PB’ (personal best) time to express (first thing in the morning after a hot shower!)”
Sometimes it’s just one of those days!
Anita, mother of eight year old Lochie and three year old Cassie remembers, “I went to Melbourne for a conference when Loch was only three months old. I had to express in the toilet cubicles between lectures and not only did I miss out on all the great food, but I didn't screw the lid on one of the bottles completely and it leaked through my bag and left little puddles of milk on the floor...embarrassing!”
So this is a tribute to all the mums who breastfeed, express, sterilise, store milk and make up formula to ensure the very best for their babies.
A special thank you to the lovely ladies mentioned above who allowed me to pick their brains and publish their experiences – you are all amazing!
Add your own expressing experiences in the comments section below.