This is my story of expressing milk from birth.
I’ll be honest. I never thought breastfeeding would be a problem – my sisters did it with all 3 of their children. Why wouldn’t I be able to do it, I thought?
But now I know that every woman’s experience is different. After all, every birth is different, every baby is different and every mother and father are different.
I’m no expert in breastfeeding problems and solutions and I don’t claim to be. But, having been through these problems (like many other mums) I would just like to share my experience on a personal level. And hopefully, my experience will help other mum’s to be more prepared than I was.
Or, maybe my experience may just give you some hope and guidance with expressing milk. Yes, I could not breast feed so I expressed for 10 and a half months and supplemented with formula. If you are looking for alternatives to breastfeeding, check out this post here.
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Let’s firstly look at some reasons why mums have problems with breastfeeding.
Could the problem lie with the tongue tie?
So, my daughter was born with a very tight tongue tie which seemed to restrict her tongue movement a lot. And this can cause big problems with babies being able to latch on.
Tongue ties can also cause pain for mothers who are trying to breastfeed.
Both the above issues can increase the likelihood of having problems with breastfeeding.
My daughter had her tongue tie cut but the surgery was 3 weeks after her birth. By this time, the chances of being able to breastfeed with no problems were much more reduced as she was already used to using bottles.
Not all babies need their tongue ties cutting; some babies with tongue ties have no problems being able to move their tongue freely.
If you are in the same position as I was and your child has a tongue tie then speak with your midwife or health visitor – especially if you are having problems with breastfeeding.
If there is any way to get the tongue tie removed quickly after birth then take it.
How problems in labour can affect the chances of breastfeeding
Long, stressful labour and some medications can cause problems with breastfeeding
Prolonged stress in labour can delay milk production. IV fluids and pain relief medications given in labour CAN also slow down the milk production after birth.
Of course stress and medications won’t affect all women’s milk production. Statistics however show that women who have these during labour are more likely to have a delay in their milk coming according to Breastfeeding Support. They can also reduce the chances of being able to successfully breastfeed as mentioned by Very Well Family.
Unfortunately for me (and like many other mums) I had a very long, stressful labour where I was induced and given 3 different types of pain relief. These issues could have affected my chances of being able to breastfeed.
Why feed the first hour after birth?
No one ever told me at the time (yes, not even the midwives who were caring for me and my baby) but the first hour after a baby is born is the best time to try feeding your new-born. One reason is that the colostrum given in that first hour provides so many health benefits to a new-born. Another reason is that it increases the chances of having success with breastfeeding.
My advice for mums who are struggling to breastfeed
My advice would be to try getting some help from lactation specialists but if all else fails, then consider exclusively expressing milk or combination feeding.
I took all the help that I could possibly get. After labour, when anyone offered to help me with breastfeeding, I took it. I had midwives, my health visor AND lactation specialists all helping me… But it wasn’t working.
There was no way that my daughter was going to latch on for any longer than about 5 seconds. I didn’t want to get too stressed with trying so hard to breastfeed because this could stress my baby.
Related Post: How To Increase Milk Supply If Exclusively Pumping
My story of expressing milk from birth
I ordered a manual breast pump from Amazon for delivery the day after my daughter was born. I eased up a little on trying to breastfeed. I tried this pump for the first few days and really wasn’t getting much milk (although it is quite normal to not get much milk in the first few days).
Thankfully, I was also offered a hospital grade breast pump by the lactation specialists. These breast pumps were worth hundreds of pounds and I felt massively grateful to be able to rent it for 1 month at the cost of just £20. Without hesitation I took the offer and began pumping with it.
I was expressing 5x a day and my milk was increasing more and more. I must admit, it took some time to see the milk begin to come and it felt like a slow uphill battle but I kept going. I was supplementing the breast milk with formula milk and within a few weeks I was almost exclusively giving my daughter expressed breast milk.
I wonder if it was the hospital breast pump that helped my milk to increase so much. But, even after I returned the hospital breast pump and went back to using the manual pump my milk supply increased more. I continued to express milk just 5x daily.
Below is an image of my breast milk stored in the fridge.
My solution to the breastfeeding problem
For anyone who is wondering, there is nothing wrong with combination feeding
It took a few weeks of expressing 5x a day to get my milk supply up but after this I rarely supplemented with formula (maybe 1 or 2 bottles a week).
I purposely started to gradually reduce how much I was expressing when my daughter became 6 and a half months and eventually stopped completely when she was 10 and a half months.
Expressing milk from birth was not easy but I’m glad I did it
I know it would have been even more difficult to exclusively express if I’d have had 2 or more children. It wasn’t easy but I knew breast milk has lots of long term health benefits for babies and I told myself it wouldn’t last forever which kept me going.
Contrary to what you might think, I wasn’t often expressing during the night – only very occasionally would I do this. I was however expressing in the very early mornings after my daughter woke (between 4-7am).
The reason why I wanted to create this blog post is to encourage other mums to not get discouraged if they are having problems with breastfeeding. If this is you, then you could try expressing milk and combination feeding.
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How to spot a good quality breast pump
Always make sure you invest in a good quality breast pump and it’s not always the most expensive ones that work the best. Trust me, I borrowed an expensive electric breast pump off a friend thinking I could increase my milk even more and instead my milk supply started reducing, not increasing. I was better off with the pump that cost £20+ that I already had.
Amazon is a great place for finding a good quality breast pump because you can see reviews. Go for a pump that has excellent reviews and maybe even ask your lactation specialist.
You can make an expressing schedule the way you choose. Even if you’re only getting a moderate amount of milk from expressing then that’s something to be proud of.
Why combination feed?
Exclusively expressing milk from birth without breastfeeding is difficult so you can try supplementing with formula.
Combination feeding actually helps babies to get used to formula milk. This prevents problems with weaning from breast milk to formula later on. Formula milk also helps babies to go longer between feeds as It takes longer to digest than breast milk.
What are the benefits of expressing milk?
Here are 5 benefits to expressing milk from birth
1. Your partner can help out with feeding during the night. People often thought that I expressed at the time my baby needs the milk. This is completely wrong!
You will always have to express before your baby needs the milk and simply store it in the back of the fridge until it’s needed (just check how long it can stay in the fridge for). The great thing about this is that your partner can help you with feeding your baby in the night while you get some beauty sleep.
2. Breast milk can last for up to 4 hours outside of the fridge at room temperature according to Very Well Family. If you are going anywhere you can simply take the milk with you.
3. You will know exactly how much your baby is drinking. You can never really know this when breastfeeding until you start noticing your babies weight is either increasing or decreasing.
Pretty much throughout my daughter’s first year she remained at about 50 percentile in weight. She was called the “textbook baby” by the health visitors at the weigh in clinic. But with her being bottle fed I knew exactly how much she was drinking and I knew how much I should expect her to drink each day.
4. Of course, breast milk is healthy for babies. Expressed milk still has lots of healthy lipids and fats which are great for babies. According to Very Well Family, adults who were given breast milk have less chance of having health problems such as heart disease and high cholesterol.
5. Expressing breast milk costs far cheaper than formula feeding. I bought a Lansinoh breast pump at low cost (image below) which had excellent reviews on Amazon. This pump lasted me for over 10 months and other than having to occasionally replace the valves there was no other cost.
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This was my story of expressing milk from birth
I really hope you found my story helpful in some way. If there is anything that you think can help other mums then leave a comment. Also, please share the post with anyone who you think may benefit from reading it. Thank you!