Hand-Expressing Breastmilk

Gloria Lemay has compiled a list of various videos, files, etc., on hand-expressing breastmilk. This is something useful for every nursing mother to know. One of the “must-haves” that I was told that all nursing mothers needed was a breast-pump, so I dutifully bought one. I used it a few times when my first-born was a baby — my sister-in-law died of colon cancer (at the age of 35!) when he was a month old, and we had to travel 9 hours by car to the funeral. Since I wasn’t comfortable nursing while riding in a car (my father was killed in a fluke, one-car, roll-over accident when he wasn’t wearing a seatbelt, so buckling up is not optional), I did actually use the pump on that trip. Then I figured out that since I was forward-facing beside the baby, and he was rear-facing, I could nurse him with us both still safely buckled (it worked better if his car seat wasn’t in the base, because that was too high; it also helps that I’ve got big boobs {shrug}). Aside from that, I don’t think he ever had a bottle — the times that I left him (like to buy groceries while my mom watched him, or went out for dinner with my husband or something) were usually brief enough that we didn’t miss a feeding. And he refused a bottle. Usually, I’d just take him with me, and if he got hungry while we were out, I’d nurse him.

When I had my second baby, a friend had just adopted a newborn, and I pumped milk for him. At first, I used the pump I had already bought (the cheapest one at Walmart), but I wore it out from all the pumping. Then my friend was able to borrow from another friend a wonderful, super-deluxe, double-pump electronic pump. It was incredibly much more comfortable, and got so much more milk, and was more than twice as fast. It was amazing.

Still, there were times with both babies that I needed to hand-express. The first time, it took me a while to realize that I was making too much foremilk, so my baby wasn’t getting enough hindmilk. Being able to express and discard some of the foremilk helped. Other times, it helped with being able to relieve engorgement — particularly when I no longer was pumping for the adopted baby, and needed to reduce my supply. I didn’t want to pump milk and just make more, so I was able to wean myself from the breast-pump through hand-expressing. But at the height of my milk pumping, I was able to hand-express quite a bit, even without using the pump (the day my old pump broke, and before I could get the other one was not fun!).


“Breastfeeding with Comfort and Joy” — a review


Beautiful photography!

Excellent advice!

It’s hard to top the words of praise Dr. Christiane Northrup and others — both doctors Laura Keegan has worked with and mothers she has helped — have given:

like having a wise and loving grandmother show you exactly how to nurse your baby… Laura has created a manual of wisdom and celebration… what you need to know to get started in establishing a comfortable breastfeeding relationship and to solve problems should they occur… Before this experience, I never would have believed that learning the correct latch in this book meant that I would spend less time nursing my twins than I did nursing my firstborn and without the pain of sore nipples…

Plus there are many, many more in the opening pages of the book — a variety of mothers who had difficulties nursing for many different stated reasons (one mother was told that her baby had an “abnormal suck”, one baby was slow to gain weight, several mothers had cracked nipples), who resolved all those difficulties with the techniques brought forth and beautifully illustrated in this book.

Once you go past the introductory words of praise and the table of contents (which you can see by going to BreastfeedingwithComfortandJoy.com and clicking on “click here for excerpts”), there are beautiful photographs on every two-page spread — usually one large picture on the left-hand page with explanatory text on the right-hand page, but frequently a series of smaller pictures (for instance, several photos taken just seconds apart showing a baby properly latching onto the breast). These pictures show a variety of babies, from the tiny, still-wrinkly newborns to those oh-so-chubby babies of several months old, with several “milk-drunk” babies who have fallen asleep while nursing, and smile that sweet, satisfied smile. The pictures primarily show good latches and good positioning, with only one “what not to do” picture — this is important, because it is much better to show what to do rather than what not to do. In this way, women get strong and repeated correct images of how to properly breastfeed.

One thing that struck me the strongest while reading this book is the statement she made about how that women in this country often “automatically hold their babies and their breasts in ways that work for bottle-feeding since that is what most of us have imprinted in our minds” — as opposed to women growing up in cultures where breastfeeding is the norm. And it is this “incorrect imprinting” that is the root of so many problems with breastfeeding.

I remember my Daddy kind of poking fun at organizations like La Leche League, or wondering out loud why it was that women should have such problems with nursing their babies when animals don’t have that problem. To be honest, I never had any problems with nursing either. The only times it hurt were when my children got to that stage (about 6 months old?) where they are easily distractable and frequently turn to see what made that noise without letting go of the breast first; and also a couple of times when I was pregnant and nursing, my 10-month-old son would occasionally latch on incorrectly (I don’t know why — we’d obviously been nursing for quite some time), and it would hurt, so I would take him off and start him again (and I couldn’t tell you what was the difference), and it wouldn’t hurt the second time. And sometimes when I hear stories of women who have had just dreadful pain while nursing — like my sister-in-law whose nipples cracked and bled the whole time she nursed her oldest child, and she had terrible pain with every feeding (I give her full kudos for sticking with it for 11 months — I think I’d’ve given up much sooner!) — when I’d hear stories like that, I’d sometimes wonder why it is so hard for some women, when it was so easy for me. Now, I think I know most if not all of the answer.

The next several pages go into detail (in words and in pictures) about the differences between both maternal and baby positioning with breastfeeding vs. bottle-feeding. And it is this that makes all the difference in the world. When the breast and baby are not in proper alignment, the nipple is subjected to abuse which causes pain initially, and if not changed, can lead to cracked and bleeding nipples. I’ve not had that, but I can imagine it to be not fun in the slightest. Yet, often women are told that even when they are in pain that there is nothing wrong — that happened to my sister-in-law I just mentioned. (Just for background, she didn’t tell me about her problem with breastfeeding until well after she had weaned her daughter — she first mentioned it a couple of weeks after I had my first son, when she asked if I was having any problems with pain, cracking, or bleeding. I think she was a little jealous and quite astounded when I said ‘no.’ She may have been a little perturbed at her “bad luck,” but I don’t think “luck” was the problem.) Anyway, when she was in the hospital after having had her baby, the nurse told her that she was doing everything right — despite the pain she was feeling. Because this “authority figure” (I believe she called her a “lactation consultant,” but I’ve heard that sometimes nurses are given that appellation or a similar one when they’ve had little or no training in breastfeeding, but they may be the only L&D nurse with breastfeeding experience, so they are the “go-to person” whenever a mom has a problem) told her that there wasn’t a problem, she persisted with an incorrect latch through months of pain and bleeding. It shouldn’t happen.

There are other sections (see the table of contents in the excerpts of the book) that deal with several other common problems or areas of concern — including many, many pictures of mothers breastfeeding twins, showing different positions for the babies to be in — as well as skin-to-skin contact, kangaroo care, colic, engorgement, etc.

Again, the pictures are just beautiful and both pictures and text are quite informative. It’s a must-have for any woman who has problems with nursing, or anyone who has contact with such women (midwives, doulas, nurses, childbirth educators…). I’m going to loan my copy to a woman at my church who is expecting her first baby any day now. I hope I get it back!