One of the many great things about breastfeeding, is that it is flexible and you can really create a breastfeeding experience that works for you and your baby. Many mums have asked me for breastfeeding and expressing tips, so I hope this blog helps you too. Here is a frequently asked question about breastfeeding and expressing tips.
“I’m really tired and seem to have very little milk at the end of the day when my baby seems hungriest. Baby feeds continuously in the evening and then frequently at night. I need to get baby to bed so that I can have dinner and a break, so wonder how and when to offer a bottle feed. I don’t want to introduce formula but don’t know how or when to express to get the milk baby needs.”
It is natural to have less milk in the afternoon and this can often lead to baby feeding frequently and feeds being close together. This is called cluster feeding and many other mums are experiencing a similar feeding pattern, so it is not something that you are not alone and definitely not doing wrong.
Here are seven breastfeeding and expressing tips
When to express – Your milk supply is typically higher in the morning, so express after the first 2 feeds of the day – say 7am and 10am, and use this milk for an evening bottle. Remember to express in place of the breastfeed, so that you maintain your supply and don’t develop congestion. If baby is being offered a bottle at 10pm, you can express both breasts at 9pm and go to early.
Offer a split feed – Offering baby a split feed at bath time encourages baby to take in more calories. The more calories your baby takes in during the day, the less he or she will need at night. You can also consider doing a breastfeed before bath – both sides, bath, breastfeed after the bath – both sides and then offer a top up.
Offer a bottle feed when it suits you – Many mums think that they can only offer a bottle feed in place of a breastfeed at 10pm or the last feed of the day. This is certainly a popular time since the introduction of baby routines, but you can offer a bottle at a time that works for you. If you struggle in the evening, you can offer baby a bottle feed of expressed milk after his or her bath as suggested above. Some mums find that offering baby a bottle of expressed milk at 4pm when supply is lowest and expressing both sides instead, fills baby up, takes less time and set everyone up for a great evening. The 10pm is popular but doesn’t always lead to longer periods of sleep.
Boost your supply – You can also boost your afternoon milk supply by having 3 fenugreek capsules at lunchtime. Fenugreek will boost your supply, so that your baby is able to get more milk and will be more satisfied. There are many other galactogues (milk producing agents) so have a read online and find one that works for you. (Always check with GP)
Smart top ups – If you feel that your baby just isn’t getting enough milk at feeds, you can use the milk you express in the morning, to top your baby up during the day. Offer both breasts at feeds and then a 20 -30ml top up of expressed milk afterwards. This will make the evenings less frantic and lead to a calmer bedtime. (Have your positioning and attachment checked to ensure baby is draining the breast effectively)
Know what’s normal for your baby – Your baby may have a small tummy which is why he or she needs to feed frequently – frequent feeds are not always a ‘sign of low milk supply’. The more frequently your baby feeds, the higher the fat content. Use breast compression to ensure that the breast empties well – the better drained it is, the quicker it will refill and the more satiated baby will be.
Formula is not the silver bullet it is made out to be – Breast milk is easily absorbed and utilised by your baby. If your baby’s feeding is all over the place, there will be improvements you can make to get breastfeeding on the right track. Breastfeeding is often wrongly associated with lack of sleep, but I usually find that mums just haven’t been given the right advice, so if you don’t want to introduce formula, you don’t have to.
More breastfeeding and expressing tips
Check that your positioning and attachment works for you and your baby, is suited to your unique anatomy, baby’s oral cavity and your birth history.
Ensure that your feeding pattern reflects your breast size and your baby’s weight and age.
Remember that a pump won’t get as much from the breast as baby does and expressing is not a sign of how much milk you produce.
Express from both sides after the morning feed, rather than just one side.
Ensure that there is at least an hour between finishing expressing and your next breastfeed.