Expressed Breast Milk: The Fundamentals

What is expressed breast milk?

What is expressed breast milk? Most mothers of newborn babies would have heard of it but may wonder what it is and why they should use it. More commonly referred to as EBM, expressed baby milk is when breast milk is extracted from the breasts by your own hand.

The amounts you extract could fill a bottle or even something as small as a teaspoon. In the end, it is your preference and whatever amount will suit you and your baby the most!

Mothers have been feeding their babies with breast milk for millennia. Still, with the growth of infant formula and other liquid feeds, many people do not understand what expressed baby milk is.

expressed breast milkEBM: It’s Easy, and It’s All Natural!

Expressing milk is the easiest way to make breast milk that is readily available to you at the time. It can also be one of the easier ways to save breast milk when your baby suddenly decides to eat less and less before going into a deep sleep. Expressing milk could be done either via hand expression, electric pump, or manual pump.

Breastmilk is important for your baby as it provides them with nutrients and antibodies. Therefore, you need to ensure that your baby has enough of it. Expressing breast milk is common among breastfeeding mothers.

But how do you know what is the correct amount of milk you need to feed your little one?

We wouldn’t know how much milk a baby drinks from the breast unless we weighed them before and after each breastfeeding, but we can use some creative methods to determine if they are being fed well.

You can start by using your baby’s growth chart. If a healthy weight gain is going on, you can rest assured that you have been feeding your baby the right amount.

A happy and frolicky baby who is settling well is another sign of being well-fed.

The third and most apparent method is cleaning up a massive load of wet and filthy nappies throughout the day. The more nappies you have to deal with, the better!

Expressing Breast Milk during the First Few Weeks:

If it is essential for your baby to drink your expressed breast milk during the first week, perhaps because you aren’t yet nursing or because you need to provide extra milk to help them gain weight, your midwife will offer you a personalized recommendation on how much to give your baby in the hospital and at home.

Your baby will only require 5-7ml of milk per feeding in the first few days after birth, which is around half a tablespoon. Colostrum is all your infant needs during the first few days before mother’s milk arrives, which usually takes 3 to 5 days.

What is Colostrum?

Colostrum is a type of breast fluid. It is generated by humans, cows, and other mammals and happens before the secretion of breast milk. It’s full of antibodies, proteins that fight viruses and bacteria, and incredibly nutritious.

Remember that this is a generalization based on a healthy, full-term infant. If your kid is premature or has another medical issue, they may have different intake needs. Always follow your healthcare provider’s instructions.

Healthy term babies only require tiny amounts of fluid in the first few days, usually only a few MLS. You’ll be told to increase the amount of milk you feed your baby once it arrives. The volumes will swiftly grow, as will your own milk supply, so don’t be alarmed if the volumes you’ve been told to give over the next few days appear to be considerably larger than what you’ve been making for the first few days. You’ll be expressing a lot once your milk arrives!

Under Special Circumstances, Stick to a Healthcare Professional!

Midwives and doctors will advise you on how much milk your baby needs if they are sick with low blood sugar, jaundice or delivered prematurely. Always stick to the recommendations of your doctor and midwife because each baby is a different case.

The crucial thing is to express 8-10 times a day until your baby can breastfeed properly on their own. This will ensure that you initiate and build up your milk volumes to where they need to be for the time being and in the future.

Trust Your Baby

As your baby grows and develops, you may notice that their feeding pattern changes.

It is vital to remember that babies are not robots; they do not always want the same amount of milk at set times. The amount of milk your baby drinks from the breast can vary widely from feed to feed. Many mothers find this frustrating and worry about whether their baby is getting enough milk.

Babies who are feeding on the breast will have some feeds where they drink lots of milk and other feeds where it is more like a snack. So don’t worry! Your babies are really clever and well adapted to take as much milk from the breast as they want. They know how to satisfy themselves perfectly! They drink like this because your milk changes in its level of fat during the day. For example, it is different between morning time and night time and at the beginning and end of your feeds. Additional factors that affect how much your baby drinks are your baby’s age, metabolism, and genes.

Precautionary Measures to Maintain a Regular Milk Supply

1.Maintain your pump properly

It’s essential to replace your pump parts regularly, especially the valves and backflow protectors. It drastically impacts the pump’s suction as they wear down, hurting your milk supply. These conditions can cause the baby to miss some of the milk that comes out when they suck, which causes more bacteria and wear on the flanges and tubing.

Generally speaking, you should see a suction drop after about 100 milk pumping sessions or between 3-4 months. It’s best to replace them before this happens to avoid any milk supply disruptions.

If you aren’t sure when to replace your parts, check out this article on how often you should be replacing them:

2.Protect yourself with the proper settings

It can be hard to know your correct pump settings, so let us walk you through it!

First, if you haven’t already, measure your nipple diameter. This will ensure that you’re using the correct-sized breast shield. If your nipple is larger than the inner diameter of the flange, you’ll want to consider bumping up a size.

Then, it’s time to play around with your pump settings. While pumping, all pumps should be set on massage mode, which means they’re in the first phase of pumping—massaging and stimulating milk flow. It will be ideal to switch over to expression mode when you feel like the milk flow has been stimulated enough. This is the second phase of pumping, where milk is actually extracted from your breasts. You’ll want to find a suction level and cycle speed that’s both comfortable and yields a lot of milk for you.

3. Drink water, and plenty of it at that 

In general, the more water you consume, the more milk you will express.

Keep your fluid intake up, especially if your baby demands more milk. This can happen during a growth spurt, more often than not. Drinking sufficient water is vital if you are in a stage where you are expressing exclusively.

4.Maintain a lactation friendly diet

There are certain foods and beverages like oatmeal and coconut milk that women swear by for boosting their milk supply. But do they really work?

The short answer is yes! For example, many moms say that oatmeal helps them produce more milk. And there’s some research suggesting that this is true. One study found that lactating mothers who consumed oatmeal-based shakes daily for four weeks had a higher milk production than those who didn’t consume the shakes.

Another food people say helps increase their milk supply is coconut milk. No studies have been done specifically on coconut milk; however, it does contain fatty acids and proteins, which are thought to help with milk production.

Apart from oatmeal and coconut milk, other foods that have been anecdotally linked to increased milk production include ginger, salmon, lentils, fennel seeds, parsley, fenugreek (a spice), flaxseed(s), lean chicken, and tuna.

There’s also a whole category of foods that are commonly called “lactation cookies,” which are designed to provide you with the nutrients needed to produce more milk.

expressed breast milkKeep your eyes peeled and ears open for other factors

The most common culprits of low milk supply are an ineffective latch and/or a poor pumping routine. These aren’t always the issue, however—sometimes a mother’s diet or the use of certain medications can affect her supply. If you’ve tried everything else and haven’t seen an increase in your output, consider visiting a lactation professional. To help rule out whether a medical condition, such as insufficient glandular tissue or tongue tie, could be hurting your supply. The mentioned methods will usually yield positive results within a couple of days to a week. It’s important to seek help if you’re having trouble with supply. If you’re not sure about something, please reach out to a healthcare professional!

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