On Friday I attended a lactation conference and got some great new ideas. Diana West spoke to us about hand expression of breastmilk prior to birth. In some cultures it has always been a part of a new mother’s preparations for birth. She teaches herself how to hand express some colostrum and practices it day by day in the weeks leading up to her birth. What colostrum she gets she can collect for her baby.
Hand expression is a skill we don’t always learn because we have electric pumps. We tend to assume that electric pumps are superior. But women who are skilled at hand expression can sometimes get more milk out than an electric pump will. Electric pumps aren’t always convenient, but hand expression is always handy!
There are two good benefits of practicing hand expression while pregnant. The first is that if a mom has concerns that her production will be low (for hormonal or breast surgery reasons) hand expression can help her to create a fuller supply.
The second is that learning the skill of hand expression will help a mom have confidence in handling her breasts and in learning the new skill of breastfeeding.
If a mom is at high risk for preterm labor she shouldn’t do hand expression prior to birth. But if she has a normal, healthy pregnancy, hand expression is safe. Women have done it for centuries.