Expressing using an electric breast pump

Pumps for all
Pumps for all

Why you might want to use an electric breast pump

  • Returning to work
  • Building your milk supply
  • Your baby is unable to breastfeed
  • You have painful nipples or breasts
  • You want to miss a breastfeed and have someone else feed your baby

Firstly lets discuss the Milk Ejection Reflex (MER), this is a hormonal response required by the body to release breastmilk. It happens when your brain receives a message that you want to breastfeed or express, the brain then releases a hormone called oxytocin, this hormone acts on the cells where the milk is made and stored relaxing them and dilating the milk ducts so the milk can be removed from the breast.

The most reliable sign of the MER is a change in the baby’s sucking pattern, which will change from quick sucks, to long slow sucks. Other signs of MER include: a tingling sensation in the breast and nipple, milk dripping or squirting from the nipples or feeling suddenly sleepy. Some women do not notice any sensations at all.

To Help Encourage the MER:

  • Get comfortable in a private area and try to relax
  • Think about your baby, a photo may help
  • Your body may not respond effectively to expressing initially, effectiveness improves with practise
  • You may like to have a drink, a snack, music or reading material with you
  • Using warmth or having a warm shower before you start has helped some mothers

Using an electric breast pump

  • Wash your hands
  • Expressing from both breasts simultaneously maximises milk volume, stimulates more MERs, saves time and the milk also has a slightly hire fat content. This is because the MER happens in both breasts at the same time so you take full advantage of the reflex
  • Start expressing with fast gentle suction (stimulation/massage mode), just like babies do at the beginning of a feed
  • When you feel the MER or see your milk begin to flow, press the expressing button on the pump- slower stronger cycles (expressing mode)
  • The MER comes in surges throughout the feed/express, so the flow may appear to stop and start. There are usually several MERs per expression session
  • Experiment with the settings, as individuals respond differently to different settings.
  • Use the highest, comfortable vacuum
  • Express until milk droplets cease flowing (~10-20 minutes)
  • Breast massage while expressing and hand expressing after pumping may drain the breasts more completely and increase your  milk supply
  • Ensure your breasts are not being compressed and the tunnel of the shield is not too tight around your nipples as these can cause damage. Larger shields are available
  • Expressing should not be painful

Breastmilk quantities:

  • In the first week after your milk “comes in”, approximately 300-500mL/24 hours
  • From 2-3 weeks, approximately 600-700mL/24 hours
  • Babies aged 1-6 months drink approximately 800mL /24 hours (range 500-1350mL)
  • Consult your healthcare professional for specific advice on how much to express and feed your baby