Do you squeeze your boobs?
I breastfed my daughter Cayenne for about 3 years and I never once hand expressed my milk! I didn't even know you could do that...at least not in a way that would efficiently and quickly get milk out of my breasts.
Boy do I wish I had known that I could replace my breast-pump with my hands when my daughter went on a breastfeeding strike while I was out of town with her. I did not have a breast pump with me. After all, I wasn't planning to pump since Cayenne would be with me 24/7. But, after several hours of not nursing my breasts were engorged and tender and leaking--raise your hand if you've been there. I squeezed them a few times to relieve the pressure enough for me to stand it...Then I found the nearest Target and bought ANOTHER pump!
Knowing how to effectively and efficiently hand express would have been nice since my hands:
1) are FREE...don't cost a penny!
2) don't have several parts that are easily lost or forgotten
3) only require hot water, soap and some massage to clean
4) don't need electricity
So I'm REALLY happy to share that you can in fact squeeze your boobs and get milk out of them efficiently and quickly, just by using your hands--all you need is the right technique.
YOU can learn the right technique and find out more about hand expression from renowned Hand Expression Educator Francie Webb, mom-preneur behind The Milkn Mama.
Francie was kind enough to take the time to answer my--and I hope your-- pressing questions about hand expression. After the interview are links to join her upcoming Virtual Hand Expression workshops, which I highly recommend for expectant, new and seasoned breastfeeding moms who want to be free from the pump!
Without further adieu, here's my interview Francie Webb...
The least favorite part of my breastfeeding experience was pumping. And I hear from many moms that they also hate pumping. How does hand expression compare to pumping? Does it take less time? Does it feel more comfortable? Is it easy? Do you feel less like a cow being milked? (At least that was how I felt when I was hooked up to that thing!)
For me, hand expression takes less time. This is true for a lot of mamas once they learn to hand express well. It takes time and practice to get good at it, but it's so worth. It is significantly more comfortable for me. No more machine pulling at my nipples? No more of that sound the pump makes? Sign me up. When I hand express, I feel empowered. Pumping never felt that way for me.
When is the best time to learn to hand express?
The best time to learn is in the first days and weeks after baby is born. The sooner you find what moves work best for you, the sooner you will be more FREE!
What do you see as the top 5 benefits of hand expression?
1. It's lower maintenance than pumping. No parts to clean. Game changer!
2. You have so much more POWER. You can do it anywhere, anytime. You can customize the output. Feel a fuller duct? Want a better flow? You can make it happen, using the power of your own hands.
3. It's more efficient than the pump. This is because your hands can mimic the movement of a latched baby's mouth much better than the pump can.
4. Research shows that hand expressed milk has a higher fat content than pumped milk.
5. No more clogged ducts! Regular hand expression can prevent milk from getting stuck. More comfort and less stress for mama is a WIN!
Change is difficult, and I imagine the idea of squeezing one's breasts to release the milk is foreign and scary to moms who haven't thought about or tried it. What reasons do mamas give you for not wanting to hand express? What do you say to them?
Many mamas say, "Oh, I tried that and it didn't work for me." Or, "I could never do that." I tell them that I once said the same thing. And that every mama I know who has practiced hand expression has had her life changed by it. It's worth learning to do this well. Imagine not having to schlep the pump when you're away from baby. Imagine getting some of that "extra" milk you feel after pumping out. Imagine feeling more free - less tied to the pump. It's life-changing. For these reasons and more, I say, "#gomilkyourself."
What kind of feedback have you received from moms and families who learned to hand express?
Mamas say that it's made their lives so much easier, that they have so much more freedom now, and that they're so glad they know how to. hand express Some use it in moments when they don't feel like pumping; others use it in emergency situations such as a missing pump part, severe engorgement, or a hospital stay with an older child that separates them from baby. No matter the situation, mamas soon see this as a skill we should ALL have.
Often times, people who become passionate about something do so because of personal experience. What part of your journey led to your passion about hand expression?
I first started hand expressing in hopes of getting some extra milk out after pumping. Then I went away from baby for the first time - and left some of my pump parts at home. I started to panic, and then thought, "Well, let's see how good I can get at this." In 24 hours, I expressed 29 ounces of breast milk. I was so proud of myself. Not too long after, I returned my rented hospital-grade pump. I haven't needed one since!
What ONE THING do you want moms and families to know about hand expression?
It gives you more freedom and more POWER.
Why do you think so few women hand express now-a-days? What do you know about the transition to mechanical pumps?
Most don't know about it! Few moms are ever taught how to hand express. Electric pumps are so common place now that many mamas don't realize they have another option for getting milk out. I'd love to study more about how our country became so pump-centric. I'm sure it's tied to the automation of so many other tasks in our culture, and certainly was designed to make our lives easier. I think electric pumps are a great choice if they make your life easier. In moments when they don't, you always have your hands.
This might be a strange question but is hand expression something that one's partner can learn to do? I often hear about husbands/ boyfriends/girlfriends who feel left out of the breastfeeding experience. Is hand expression a way that they might be able to participate?
Wouldn't that be nice? I'll ask my husband and get back to you. :-)
I hope you found this interview inspiring and helpful and that you want to learn to hand express for yourself. Lucky for us, Francie has a couple workshops coming up in February and March. And they are on sale, so hurry up and register!
Sending Love, Light and hand expressed breast milk,