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Expressing Breastmilk: The Ultimate Guide

Posted on by Ardo Medical

Getting started – Using a breast pump is relatively simple, but it is something that you must learn and be patient with.

We’ve taken the time to put together a list of tips that will help you get into your pumping routine and make the most of your expressing journey. It is important to know that you might not meet your expectations immediately, it takes time, but the sense of pride and accomplishment you’ll feel when it all comes together is amazing!

Stimulating your let-down reflex

One of the most important steps to successful expressing is to stimulate your ‘let down’ reflex. The hormone (oxytocin) causes the breast to push out or let down the milk. The let-down reflex makes the cells around the alveoli contract and squeezes out the milk, pushing it down the ducts towards the nipple.

Stress is the biggest inhibitor of milk supply, so make sure you get your breast ready. Massage the breasts before you start expressing as this will help encourage the flow of milk and improve milk lymph drainage. Applying a warm flannel or having a warm shower also helps with the milk ejection reflex.

Happy Hormones are key to achieving let down. The breastpump won’t give you that happy feeling so looking at your baby, or watching a video really helps as you cannot help but smile or think happy thoughts if you do. If you’re with your baby, you can hold them against your breast; skin to skin contact helps the stimulation.

Choosing the right size breast shell

One size does not fit all, so that is why we have a range of breastshell sizes to suit all mums. A breast shell that does not fit correctly will prevent efficient expressing, and cause pain and sore nipples. The correct size breast shell is the one that the nipple moves freely in the funnel and can follow the rhythmic movements of the pump, the milk will flow, and the breast feels uniformly soft after expression.

Take charge of your breastpump!

We have produced this quick and easy poem which helps to understand what you need to do with the pump.

Pumping Poem

“To get the milk to start to flow, set the cycles high, and vacuum low.When the milk starts to flow, set the vacuum high, and cycles low.”


The cycles replicate the sucking patterns of babies, going from a rapid speed to stimulate let down and then once this is achieved then you can adjust the vacuum to express the milk.

Maintaining a regular pumping schedule will help keep your flow at a regular level. Massaging after expressing is good breast care. This will get all the hindmilk from the back of the breast, stop engorgement and mastitis and help to increase your milk supply.

Expressing Tips

  • Getting a routine is the best way to maximise your expressing.
  • Following a routine can really help stimulate the milk flow. To help increase your flow you need to express at least as often as your baby would feed. In practical terms, this means at least 8 times in 24 hours.
  • Many women find it useful for express straight after a feed, or early in the day
  • Sitting forward while expressing helps prevent leakage./
  • Do not judge your milk by looking at it. The quality of breastmilk is always just fine, even if you are not eating or resting well.
  • If double pumping, there are expressing bras you can buy to double pump hands-free. Or you can make your own with an old bra or sports bra, make some horizontal incisions and this will keep the breast shells in place and you can be hands-free!
  • If single pumping, you will generally get a better result if you express from one breast for a few minutes, switch breasts when you notice the flow of the milk slowing, then switch back again and again. Experiment to find out what works best for you. Remember, if using an electric breast pump turn off the pump before moving the set to the other breast.
  • Stephanie Casemore advises in Exclusively Pumping Breast Milk, “Do not wear underwire bras or tight, constricting bras. These can cause blocked ducts and affect your supply.” Stephanie also suggests, “Leave your pumpset in the location you pump most frequently. Dismantling your pump, or putting it out the way, will just add to the time it takes to pump.”

Storing your precious breast milk

As outlined on the NHS website, you can store breast milk in a sterilised container in the fridge for up to five days at 4°C or lower. In the ice compartment of a fridge, you can store milk for two weeks – or for up to six months for storage in a freezer.

If you keep your milk in the fridge it’s a good idea to clearly label and date each quantity of your breast milk and use the oldest first.

If you have frozen your milk, defrost it in the fridge before giving it to your baby. Once it’s defrosted, use it straight away. However, don’t re-freeze milk once it’s thawed.

You can feed expressed milk straight from the fridge if your baby is happy to drink it cold. Or if you want to heat it up you can warm the milk to body temperature by placing the bottle in lukewarm water and when it’s reached room temperature you should use it straight away. If using an Easy Freeze bag wait until it reaches 37°C.

You must not use a microwave to heat up or defrost breast milk as it can change the composition of the milk and cause hot spots, which can burn your baby’s mouth.

Do you have any top tips for expressing that we can share with other mums? If so, let us know! We love to hear from mums, if you need any help we can offer help online with facetime/skype call or just give us a call.

Some of this article was taken from “Keep Britain Breastfeeding Scavenger Hunt” if you’d like to read the original, click here.

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