Expressing at work
What you need to know about expressing breastmilk at work
IT MAY BE a skill you never thought you’d need to acquire, but whether you express milk by hand or using a breast-pump, it takes time and a bit of perseverance to get right. Keep going, though, because when you go back to work, it’ll mean your baby has a regular and reliable supply of breastmilk, even though she’s not physically with you. Here’s everything you need to know about expressing milk at work.
WHEN TO EXPRESS
“If you’re breast-pumping with the aim of having milk in stock, pump one hour after the end of a morning breastfeeding session,” says Michelle Pitt, a qualified wellness coach and marketing director of Medela South Africa, a company that manufactures breast pumps. “I suggest pumping in the morning, as you’re not as tired then as you’ll be in the afternoon or evening, and your milk will flow more easily.”
It should go without saying that your hands must be thoroughly clean before you begin a session of expressing, regardless of whether you’re hand-expressing or using a breast pump. Wash your hands well with soap and water. The container that you’ll be collecting and storing your milk in should also be clean and dry. If you’re using a pump, “all the parts of the breast pump should be cleaned and disinfected before use,” says Michelle. “And if your baby is sick or was born prematurely, follow the hospital guidelines strictly.”
HOW TO STORE YOUR EXPRESSED BREASTMILK AT WORK
You’ll need clean glass or hard plastic BPA-free containers that seal securely with a lid or cap. You’ll also need some labels and a waterproof marker. Fill each container with enough for one feed (the age/size of your baby and her appetite will determine this). Clearly label the container with your name, and the date and time you expressed the milk. If you’re
IF YOU’RE SEPARATED FROM YOUR BABY, YOU COULD LOOK AT A PICTURE OF HER, LISTEN TO A RECORDING OF HER VOICE, OR SMELL A PIECE OF HER CLOTHING
going to be giving the milk to a childcare provider, also write your child’s name clearly on the label. Put it right at the back of the office fridge, where it’s coolest (and also out of the interest area of most people who may be sharing the fridge). If your office doesn’t have a fridge, you can use a small, well insulated cooler box with ice packs in it. Freshly expressed milk is fine at room temperature (no warmer than 25°C) for up to six hours. If you want to add additional expressed milk to a half-full container some time later in the day, first allow the freshly expressed milk to cool (either in the fridge or by using ice packs) before adding it to any already chilled breastmilk. The milk doesn’t have to be rewarmed before it’s fed to the baby, although some moms like to take the chill off a bit. You can do this by simply putting the sealed container into a larger container of warm water. Don’t use a microwave – this could create “hot spots” that could burn your baby’s tongue.
IF YOU’RE FREEZING BREASTMILK
Don’t fill the container to the very top, as breastmilk expands as it freezes. Use thawed breastmilk within 24 hours. Don’t re-freeze breastmilk.
CAN I BORROW SOMEONE ELSE’S BREAST PUMP?
No, says Michelle. “Secondhand breast pumps could potentially expose you and your baby to several health risks which far outweigh the small amount of money you’ll save by buying a secondhand breast pump or borrowing one. Breast pumps come into direct contact with body fluid, and any of the pump parts that are exposed to the previous mother’s milk could harbour viruses that were in that mother’s system.” While there are several common and serious viruses that can be transferred in breastmilk, “of particular concern to us in South Africa is HIV, which can survive in a droplet of milk stuck in a piece of tubing or the pump motor,” Michelle points out. And it won’t work to replace or sterilise pump parts in a secondhand or borrowed breast pump, either. “This doesn’t get around the problem of viruses or pathogens that may be present in parts of the pump that can’t be seen, cleaned or sterilised, such as the electric pump motor,” says Michelle. Check with your medical aid whether they cover the purchase of a breast pump, as some do.
TIPS FOR SUCCESSFUL EXPRESSING
Following a routine may help you to stimulate a good milk flow. If you establish a fixed time of the day to pump, your body can prepare for the extra demand on your milk supply. It’s easier to express milk when you’re relaxed. Take your time. Feeling rushed will impair your let-down. You could try deep-breathing exercises, relaxation exercises from your antenatal class or positive visualisation. Find a private spot without any distractions. Have everything you need within your reach. Apply warm compresses to your breasts to enhance let-down and milk flow, or massage your breasts if this works better for you. Relax your shoulders and make sure your back and arms are well supported. If you’re separated from your baby, you could look at a picture of her, listen to a recording of her voice or smell a piece of her clothing. Have a drink and a snack handy for before and during the expressing session. Expressing milk, whether by hand or using a pump, should never be painful. If you feel any pain, stop immediately and ask your lactation consultant for advice, as you may not have the technique quite right or you may not be using the pump correctly.