There is no doubt about it – those early days of breastfeeding can be absolutely exhausting. From the moment your baby takes their very first latch, to practicing different feeding positions, coping with let down, keeping your baby awake whilst feeding through to engorgement, cracked nipples and leakages; no one said that breastfeeding was easy!!
As a Mom who breastfed both of my daughters, one of the biggest breastfeeding challenges I experienced however was the immense amount of pressure. As the parent 100% responsible for feeding, at times it felt pretty relentless. It was my sole responsibility to feed them, my job to make sure they got enough, my job to ensure that they put on weight and got all the nutrition they needed. There were no rest breaks, no catching up on sleep and no sharing of the feeds with my partner. During those days and nights of cluster feeds where my baby seemed to be constantly on the breast, it felt like I literally never left the sofa.
Once my daughters had become more confident in breastfeeding and we’d got into a bit of a rhythm – expressing milk soon became my savior.
Here are some benefits of expressing and how it may be helpful for you:
Flexibility – Wouldn’t it be great if your partner could take the reins and give you a chance at having even a few hours solid sleep? Once your baby is a confident feeder; introducing your baby to a bottle of expressed milk can not only help provide a much needed break for you, but also give you some flexibility too. Need to pop into work? Pop to the shops? Have an appointment that might take longer than a few hours? Having a bottle of expressed milk ready to go removes the anxiety of rushing home to feed and allows someone else to feed your baby when you can’t physically be together.
Supports parental bonding – expressing a bottle for your partner can help them feel more involved in feeding their baby too and really help build the bond between them. My partner enjoyed having skin to skin feeds with our daughters on their last feed before bed, and that closeness whilst feeding can really help boost that connection. You could even have your partner do one of the night feeds so that you can get some rest.
Avoids engorgement – During the early weeks and months of breastfeeding your breasts may at times feel very full, uncomfortable or engorged. The ability to express (even by hand) some of the milk away can help regain some comfort, prevent blocked ducts and avoid more painful conditions such as mastitis.
Premature babies – Expressing milk is a great option for mothers who still want to give their baby the benefit and nutrition of breastmilk but are unable to feed them directly. Whether your baby is not able to latch or is staying in neonatal care, expressing for cup or bottle feeding can help ensure that they still reap the benefits of your colostrum and beyond.
To boost supply – In the early days of breastfeeding, milk production very much works on the basis of supply and demand – the more your baby feeds, the more milk your body will produce. As such, expressing milk between feeds can be an effective way to trigger more milk production, helping ensure your baby gets what they need.
Overall, expressing can be a great option to share the emotional load of breastfeeding, sharing the responsibility and pride involved in feeding your baby and watching them flourish.