Milk supply or lack thereof, is undoubtably one of the biggest worries of breastfeeding mamas. Coincidentally, a low milk supply is also one of the biggest reasons moms stop breastfeeding.
So besides nursing frequently, eating foods that increase milk supply and getting enough fluids, what else can moms do to make sure their milk production remains strong?
A recent study suggested that mothers can have a huge impact on their milk supply in just the first three days postpartum by using hand expression.
How hand expression in the first 3 days postpartum can transform your milk supply
Based on the study, “Mothers who used hand expression more than 5 times a day in the first 3 days yet pumped with the same frequency as other study mothers, expressed an average of 955 mls, about a quart a day by 8 weeks. (source).”
Here’s a great video on how to hand express breast milk:
When should you hand express?
If you are breastfeeding: Hand express for a few minutes after each feeding in the first few days postpartum.
If you are pumping: Hand express after you pump. Additionally, if you are pumping try hands-on pumping, too.
To use the hands-on pumping technique:
- Start by massaging both breasts
- Double pump as you normally would
- While pump is still on, massage breasts again
- Turn off the pump and then finish by hand expressing milk
Studies show moms who use hands-on pumping combined with pumping, pump 48% more milk than when just using the pump alone!
Is hand expression better than using a pump in the first few days postpartum?
Many babies have issues latching in the first 24 hours and many moms are given the option to use a pump to encourage milk flow.
A 2010 study found that hand expression in the first 48 hours was actually better in terms of milk removal than a double electric pump.
If your baby has issues latching in those first few days, you can hand express and feed baby with a spoon or syringe.
You should only have to hand express for an average of three to five minutes and you can expect to get a few drops of colostrum.
Don’t worry if you only get a few drops – did you know your baby’s first few feeds are roughly less than a teaspoon?
Although this information was available when I had my daughter, I wasn’t aware of it. Now that I know about the amazing benefits of hand expression in those first 72 hours, I plan to do this when my second daughter is born in just a couple months! I’ll be sure to update this post with my experience with hand expression and whether or not it influences my milk supply.
- Ohyama M. Pediatr Int. 2010
- Morton J, J
- Perinatol. 2009 Nov;29(11):757-64. Epub 2009 Jul 2