Saturday, February 9, 2013

The Hand-Expressing Queen

Totally out of cloth diapering...

I am the queen of hand expressing!!

It surprises me how many breast feeding advocates chill down when I bring hands into the picture and how intimidated they are. Apparently, it's ok to allow a machine that is nonsensitive and rude to touch and suck our breasts, but a sensitive hand that can feel where the milk is and gently squeeze...oh no! that's taboo.

Well, I use my milk for a lot of stuff besides feeding my baby. But more than that, this ability has been a life saver. It makes nursing way more fun and much healthier.

Did you know that I only once had a plugged duct? and that it only lasted a day? yep, hand expressing helped tremendously  I would empty my breasts and then give them to my toddler to suck so that the obstruction would come out.

But I'm not here to showoff as an autoproclaimed queen that has been able o squeeze 13 ounces in half an hour. I'm writing this to help.

The most important thing you should know about getting milk out of your breasts is to never squeeze the nipple. The second most important is that milk won't come out if there's nothing there. Never attempt to squeeze when you're empty. The third is that you need to "open the faucet" to let  the milk out.

So, numbers one and two seem very silly and not so important, well, they are, but still, one is plain textbook technique (holding the breast with the whole hand, place the  thumb and index surrounding the aureola and squeeze) and number two is plain logic.  So let's focus in number three.

How to allow milk out when there's no sucking? for me it's so easy I don't even think about it. But for some women it is complicated. I keep thinking my mother would have nursed me for longer had she known this technique and my first year of life would have been way less eventful.

So, here go some tips:

  1. Try doing it when you get your shirt wet. We all open our faucets at one point, that's why nursing pads were invented. Try running to the bathroom and squeeze some out in the sink. Don't stress yourself trying to find a sterilized container, that will come later when you are more familiar with this. Right now try to relax and remember the feeling of getting the milk out so that you can emulate it.
  2. Try doing it in the shower. It happens to all of us, we're taking a bath and the shower liner starts having tiny drops that become white. Exactly, take advantage of that situation and start squeezing out some good stuff!
  3. Try doing it while nursing. Our little ones are the best faucet openers, they do it naturally. I think you can recall tons of times in which you wished you had another baby for your free breast, and the more the baby sucks, the more your blouse gets wet on the other side, although this can be complicated and you need a container just for the mess itself, it can be done, believe me, the pain will go away faster and you'll have a much nicer time once the other breast is empty.
Some people say you need to think on the baby or imagine him sucking, that may work, but for my perspective, it's easier to imitate the faucet once it's open than trying to open it on your own.

Yes, I do collect my milk, a lot. No, I'm not necessarily asking you to get rid of your pump. Whatever works for you the best and makes your life easier is what you should use (which is why, in fact, a lot of moms bottle feed). My goal here is to give you a tool that you may need sooner or later, due to a shortage on energy, a trip or a working situation that doesn't allow you to bring a pump or use it. In my case, it has saved me not only hundreds of dollars in pump + accessories, but also my sanity and my nursing experience.

Feel free to contact me or leave a comment if you want to try it and need help.

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