Express Yourself: The Breastmilk Diaries

breast pump MAM

Oh, I’m all in a pickle about this expressing business. I want to do it because it would be nice to get a couple of hours off, during the day, just to get stuff done. Even if it’s being able to pop to the supermarket on my own (YES!) without worrying that the baby will wake up and need feeding, or perhaps go and get my roots done in town or have a swim. (I haven’t “had a swim” for about twenty years, but suddenly I really fancy it!) If I’m going to be keeping up this breastfeeding malarkey for the next six months then I would quite like to be able to pass on the feeding responsibility every now and again.

Also, I always feel quite bad when my breasts do that thing where they squirt out shedloads of excess milk when I’m in the bath or shower. It’s such a waste! The hoarder/recycler in me wants to quickly stick a container in front of my chest and collect it all up.

However: when to start? What to do? How to do it? It’s like a whole new world has opened up – what the hell do you do with bottles, for a start? Apparently you have to wash them and then sterilise them! How? For how long? Does this require even more equipment? It all  seems so much more complicated than breastfeeding which just requires…breasts. I’ve had mixed bits of advice about expressing, too: start it early on, wait until six weeks, wait until there’s a full moon on a Tuesday…

So I’m going to be doing a little diary series on my experiences with expressing and hopefully – with the help of some experts, if I can get hold of any! – answering some common questions along the way. Here are my burning questions and reservations – I’ll research for answers over the next week or so and do an updated “Expressing FAQ” post after that, to share my findings, just in case others might find it useful.

1) Biggest question: is this expressing thing going to be more hassle than it’s worth? Will I spend so much time faffing about with bottles and pumps and cleaning little pissy bits of plastic that I may as well have just done the breastfeed?

2) When is the best time to start expressing? How old should the baby be?

3) What kind of equipment do I need in order to start expressing and storing milk? (So far I have two manual pumps to test – the MAM and the Avent – and two electric, the Medela (hopefully en route) and the Avent. But what else do I need? A bottle warmer? An electric steriliser? Am I going to end up with all of the gubbins that I was so happy to have avoided by breastfeeding?)

4) How do you even use any of this equipment? Especially the breast pumps! Will they suck my nipple off? (Ha.) How do I know how much suction to apply? What best mimics the actions of a baby’s suckling? How in GOD’S NAME do you put it together?

5) How much milk should I be expressing per session? How much milk does a baby need per feed? Obviously you never really know how much is coming out when you breastfeed, so how are you supposed to gauge how much needs to be in the bottle?

6) Once the milk is in the bottle, then what? If you refrigerate it then how much does it need to be warmed again for feeding?

7) Is there a technique for bottle-feeding a baby? How much should they drink? And do they tike their time, like on the breast, snuffling and faffing away in their own little world, or do they gannet it all down? What do you do if there are any leftovers?

Right. That’s all for the time being. In the words of Andrew Lincoln in Love Actually; “enough. Enough now.” I can’t handle any more questions! I shall start with my research (and please do leave any tips or advice in the comments) and get back to you.

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