In my years of practice, both as a midwife and as a Lactation Consultant, I have always advised mothers to learn to hand express their breast milk. One of the reasons for this is that doing so aids latching-on by newborns and increases milk production and flow.
A very recent research article has confirmed this practice. A small study published in the Archives of Disease in Childhood showed that expressing breast milk by hand in the first days after birth is better for boosting breastfeeding rates among poorly feeding newborns than the use of a breast pump.
The results are based on the findings from 68 mothers whose newborns were latching on to the nipple or sucking poorly 12 to 36 hours after birth. The women were randomly assigned to either 15 minutes of using a breast pump or 15 minutes of manual breast milk expression in a bid to encourage their babies to breastfeed.
Afterwards, the amount of milk produced and suckled, pain levels, and confidence in breastfeeding were assessed. Breastfeeding rates were then monitored when the babies were one week, one month and two months old. By the age of two months, breastfeeding rates were higher among those babies whose mothers first expressed their breast milk by hand than those who first used a breast pump; almost all the mothers (97%) assigned to manual expression were breastfeeding compared with just under 73% of those assigned to the breast pump.
Most who used a breast pump at two months said they did so to store milk for occasions when they would be unable to feed their child in person. Just 15% said they did so to boost their milk supply. But mothers who expressed manually said they were more comfortable being seen to do so than mothers who used a breast pump.
The authors point out that breast pumping is a fast, efficient method of milk expression, once the milk supply is established. They strongly suggested, "Providers should consider teaching hand expression instead of pumping to mothers of healthy term newborns feeding poorly after birth, in cases where either method of expression might be appropriate."
A Lactation Consultant can advise on manual hand expression of breast milk and it is important to get this education as early as possible after giving birth, before any breast feeding issues arise.
(To make an appointment with our boobie guru, and hear more sage words from this wise woman, call Lani at 226-9063)