Are you expecting your new tiny soon? Or maybe you are reading this blurry eyed from your hospital bed at 3am? As a lactation consultant, I want to emphasize just how important the first week postpartum is for establishing your breastfeeding relationship and milk supply. The early days can be so precious but also be so overwhelming as you recover from delivery. Feeding a tiny human around-the-clock can be stressful and when latch isn't happening it can leave you feeling defeated and hopeless. Latching can take a few days or weeks to master but there are two skills that you can master right away to soothe baby and feed baby. The two biggest hacks and powerful practices are: skin-to-skin and hand expression. To hear more watch the video from Dr Bergman below.
Hand expression on the other hand is something you can do with your body to fuel your growing tiny with colostrum and milk. It is using your hand to manually squeeze out colostrum or breastmilk. Hand expression allows you to collect drops of colostrum to feed your baby before milk thins and transitions to a texture that can be removed easily with a breast pump. In the early days squeezing this milk out can be your safety net for your milk supply. In the early days when your breast are drained it early and often it will create more prolactin receptor sites. In short draining early and often with baby + your hands means you ensure a large milk supply for breastfeeding journey.
Here's how to hand express:
- Have a clean container ready to catch the colostrum.
- Massage your breast gently to stimulate milk flow.
-Standing in front of a mirror to do this can help you learn what works and catch the milk easily as it flows while you are learning.
- Form a C-shape with your thumb and fingers around your areola. Press back towards your chest wall.
- Gently compress and release around the areola using a rhythmic motion.
- Rotate around the areola to express from all angles.
- Switch breasts as flow slows.
I recommend hand expressing for 5-7 minutes after feedings in the first days and weeks. Every drop counts! Save the colostrum to give as a extra snacks. This is perfect for those times just before a feeding to calm them down to latch or as a little dessert after their big meal. Breastmilk can sit out for 4-5 hours room temp so hand express into a cup or syringe and you will have snacks on hand at all times.
I know the newborn period is exhausting. But staying close through skin-to-skin and hand expression is the best hack and way to start a breastfeeding relationship!
If you need a list of supplies check out this one on my AMAZON SHOP