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I was known (jokingly) by my NCT group as the queen of expressing because I was pumping milk a lot with my first child and then again with my second. With the twins I was almost solely pumping and feeding from bottles, but more about that later. I thought I was kind of the pumping expert, but recently I was given the opportunity to read Jen Kohorst’s (Minnesota Momma) ebook Pumping101 and not only did I learn a thing or two, but it also got me thinking about my journey with breastfeeding and pumping and I thought I might share the reasons that I decided to express milk so often for my children and also point any of those new to pumping to some of the pumps I would recommend and useful resources.
Reasons I expressed milk:
- I wanted to breastfeed my children exclusively, but initially that wasn’t to be with my eldest son. I unfortunately had a complex birth with him culminating in an emergency C section and lots of blood loss for me. This affected my milk supply for a few weeks and he was just losing too much weight so by expressing milk for him I knew exactly how much he was getting and I could top up when necessary to keep him healthy. I also was then able to reduce and ultimately remove the top up as it became apparent that the milk supply issues were sorted.
- Whilst pumping is not as efficient as breastfeeding for getting the maximum milk it does mean that you can help to encourage additional supply to develop by pumping directly after a feed. I used this technique very successfully with my twins when I only really had enough milk for one baby.
- One of my sons had reflux and it was bad. Every time I left home I looked like I was going for a week with the amount of spare clothes I had to bring. I found that if I expressed milk rather than breastfeeding I could keep him in a much more upright position when feeding and this seemed to help. This meant that when we went out I often took expressed milk in an attempt to avoid the endless puking.
- My twins simply refused to breastfeed when it was daytime. Who knows why, but they were small and I think to start with they needed to really concentrate when feeding which was tricky in our house of bedlam. I therefore expressed during the day and breastfed at night
- Expressing milk works really well when you have more than one child. If you get the pattern right and pump whilst the elder child is having a nap or quiet time you can then cut down on the amount of times you have say to them ‘ I can’t right now as I am feeding the baby’ because a baby drinking a bottle is typically quicker than breastfeeding.
- If you pump milk you can allow your partner to have time with the baby. My husband really valued the time that he got to spend quietly with his children whilst giving them their late feed and I really appreciated having the downtime especially with the twins
- I also pumped almost exclusively for my twins as one of them was in NICU for a month when she was born and so if I was at home I had to express milk for her and if I was at the hospital I had to express milk for her sister
Ultimately everyone should do what is right for them and their baby and for me expressing milk gave me more freedom and less time sat in a chair, but I would never want to change the times that I had breastfeeding as this is the most special time with your baby and an amazing way to bond.
Breast Pump Recommendations
If you are going to express milk more than occasionally you need a good pump and I think you need a double one. I have used a few different ones and the brand I would recommend is Medela, but with my first child I did also pump successfully using a Phillips Avent pump. When I had the twins I bought quite an expensive double pump which was just below hospital grade as your standard pump simply won’t cut it with two, but I am told that even their less powerful models are great and certainly sufficient to express for a singleton baby. If you did want to use the hospital grade pumps you can rent these. For me that did not make financial sense as I breastfed for a year typically, but loads of the twin mums I know swear by the rental service.
I would also recommend having a manual pump for times when perhaps you need to be away from home and don’t want to travel with the whole kit. A small manual pump can also be so useful if you are to be away from the baby for a few hours and need something to take the edge off before you can get home. Honestly I rarely left home without my pump!
If you are interested in finding out more about pumping/ expressing milk for your baby including ways to increase milk supply and valuable hints and tips then I recommend Jen Kohort’s ebook Pumping101. In the book you will find loads of great information about how the supply of breast milk is created and maintained and she also gives ideas for how you can improve your supply. The book also covers returning to work whilst still breastfeeding and how pumping milk can enable you to continue to feed once you do return to work. This would be especially useful for a US audience where maternity leave is so short. What I really liked about this section was the plan for how far in advance you need to start expressing and freezing milk in order to have enough. As I mentioned I have breast fed 4 children and wish I had had this book when I was still doing it even just to have the schedule for recording milk production prior to freezing so that you know how much is there – simple, but genius!