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hand expression: learn this skill before your babee arrives

Hand expression is a lost art that should be promoted more heavily to new honeys BEFORE delivery. My BREAST FRIEND KIT is beneficial for milk-making parents who wish to learn the art of hand expression. 

Hand expression is a gentle breast massage technique used to remove milk from the breast. It can also be used to collect colostrum before your babee arrives. HAND EXPRESSION isn't taught or educated on prenatally as often as it should be to new mothers or birthing persons. It could potentially be a life saving skill for babees too. 

"Studies show parents who practiced hand expression breastfed longer. If more parents breastfed up to 800K babies lives could be saved every year. " (WHO) 

Hand expression can stimulate milk production and ensure mothers and lactating persons can feed their babee human milk without having to supplement with formula. 

In order to properly hand express you have to be comfortable and familiar with your breasts. Our bodies respond significantly through the power of touch with a result of a boost in oxytocin. The LOVE hormone. When you get handsy you increase the big O which lets the milk flow. Nipple stimulation releases prolactin, the milk making hormone. These two hormones combined give your supply a bit of a boost. If you are newly postpartum this helps to kickstart the next phase of milk production. 

The First Latch breastfeeding class can teach you the basics of the first few days too. 

After birth specifically after the placenta is delivered your body goes through the next phase of lactogenesis which is milk production and release and the build up of milk volume takes place over the next 3-5 days. 

Patience's building! 

Postpartum engorgement occurs during days 2-3 up to day 5 possibly depending on your birth and it is noticeable as breasts become fuller, heavier and milk may begin to leak from your breasts. Latching your babee is the best form of relief. Babee gets practice and you get comfort from milk removal. 

If babee cannot latch -- then we use a feeding alternative like cup or spoon feeding along with a lactation professional's guidance. Hand expression is what is needed to keep the transition into the next phase of milk fueled and to prevent engorgement. Colostrum is a golden aka liquid gold color. It has a thicker consistency like honey and it is comes out in small droplets. It is harder to pump colostrum with an electric or manual pump but hand expression works just fine. 

Hand expression ensures your babee is fed without the interference of a nipple shield or bottle. ALL of which can derail your initiation of breastfeeding. Once your babee is introduced to the bottle or feeds with a nipple shield it can be harder but not impossible to get them back to the breast. 

Let your breastfeeding relationship get established first before introducing artificial teats. Feed your babee with a cup, spoon, syringe or finger feeding until you are able to find a trained and skilled IBCLC preferably private practice outside of the hospital. In my opinion finding lactation support and setting up immediate visits after delivery within 3-5 days is helpful in the early days to weeks. 

Because let's face it, it takes time to learn how to latch your babee. As a doula, I've attended several Golden Hours and the more practice a honey has the better that deeper latch achieved and it's less painful.

I've personally seen it happen within 1-2 hours and it may be a bit clumsy with the next few latches but they eventually catch on by day 2....just in time for transitional milk. Could you imagine your babee consuming that increase in volume and decrease in thickness if babee hasn't practiced a deep latch? 

The timing of milk release is intuitive to your babee's biological and physical capability of drinking milk efficiently. We must allow babees grace to exercise those immature orofacial muscles and gain efficiency with the suck-swallow-breathe patterns too. 

Babees need time to learn how to coordinate their suck swallow breathe pattern and colostrum helps with that because of its viscosity. (Supporting Sucking Skills, Catherine Watson Gemma) 

Babees latch better when they have had time to practice and sometimes with a little maternal assistance. Don't expect you or your babee to get it perfectly on day one but expect the hospitals to apply pressure with formula if exclusive breastfeeding is the goal.

Find outside help now and practice hand expression around 38 weeks for LOW RISK honeys leading up to your delivery. 

Finding outside hospital help allows you the time to have someone come to your home to sit with you and show you how to breastfeed and give anticipatory guidance on your upcoming journey. It may take one or two maybe three visits but the key is ongoing support from the first latch to the last. 

During my lactation home visits I make it clear what moms should expect physiologically with their bodies especially their breasts, postpartum engorgement, relief and managing and programming your milk supply. 

Daily hand expression is recommended beginning at 38 weeks. This timing is to prep the breasts and send a message to the body to get ready to feed. Many honeys have never manipulated their breasts in such a manner and can take some getting used to. But let me tell you honey.....the BOOST in confidence moms get when they see the milk come out and are amazed at what they have expressed in such a short amount of time.

You are enough, honey!

Hand expression has a narrative and myth attached to it that it can cause premature labor. Again it is recommended for LOW RISK MOTHERS to begin around 38 weeks. A few studies have shown that a few minutes of hand expression daily doesn't fill enough uterine receptors to cause the onset of labor. It would take an immense amount of hand or electrical pumping to induce labor. In fact it has been shown that mothers that hand expressed for a few minutes a day up to three times a day showed a faster transition into full lactation and a decrease in postpartum breastfeeding failures. Read more here, honey! 

If you have certain medical complications, learning hand expression and colostrum collection can be very beneficial for you. The Breast Friend Kit is a safe alternative for colostrum collection prenatally too. Some honeys may want to start collecting due to certain medical complications that can delay that initial need. It is the best back up plan for breastfeeding.

When all else fails, use your hands, honey! 

Persons such as NICU babees, a honey having a cascade of interventions at birth, possible separation from babee, gestational diabetes, IUGR, possible jaundiced babees, planned or emergency C SECTIONS which can all slow down Lactogenesis (milk production) 

As always, speak with your provider before beginning. But keep in mind they usually have outdated information on this topic so ask them frankly, can I still have sex?! 

Because if you can have sex you can hand express!! 

And also, sex increases the chances of labor more than hand expression. 

Book an online self paced HAND EXPRESSION CLASS to learn therapeutic breast massage and how to program your milk supply, prenatally. 

If you are local to the Atlanta or surrounding metro counties and need more in person assistance, I'd love to be your coach!  

Please book me here. For a free demonstration on hand expression please click here

***This blog should not be used to replace medical advice. Please seek out a lactation professional or an IBCLC for assistance with breastfeeding or bottlefeeding.***


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