Labor Repose

Labor Repose
LaborPayne during her 6th homebirth (9th baby) at age 44

Friday, September 18, 2009

Hand Expression? Who Knew?

At the breastfeeding conference I attended nearly a week ago, the speaker said something intriguing. In fact, it's taken me a week to process it- Hand expression as a means of boosting milk supply? It seems too simple to be true- and just about the one thing I didn't try. Could it really be so simple? I both want and don't want it to be true. After all the teas, galactogagues, and tinctures I poured down my gullet, it was never suggested that manual expression might be something to try. I also recently watched a friend suffer this same dreaded fate, and had very little to offer her in the way of practical support or suggestions. I only half-heartedly mentioned the usual offerings since none of them had worked for me. Has anyone out there used manual expression to boost milk supply? I'd love to hear some empirical evidence or personal narratives.


Anonymous said...

I just read this last night in my most recent (Oct '09) copy of "Parents" magazine. From the sound of the (extremely short) article, the study was done on mothers of preemies. I'm not sure if all premature births were included, or if it was only the very pre-term births (prior to 30 weeks), but it found that mothers who gave birth prior to 30 weeks gestation got more and better milk supply if they massaged their breasts in addition to and/or while pumping.

That's all I know about the study -- I don't know the size of the study, relevance to the general population, quality of the study, was it peer-reviewed, etc. However, the suggestion was that massaging the breasts help to empty them more fully, and of course then the "supply and demand" cycle kicks in to up the supply.


LaborPayne said...

Oh Snap!
Thanks for the reminder Kathy. This recommended method of hand expression was proceeded by breast massage. I'll check out the article. I'll also post the recommended method on video.

Deb said...

Even though it's been over 12 yrs. since I breastfed my last baby & over 13 yrs . since giving birth, I love your blog! I breastfed my first baby 20 yrs. ago, but not without a lot of trial & trepidation. I almost gave up & put my daughter on formula. That didn't work either. She had projectile vomiting & sever diarrhea.I consulted with La Leche League and got back on track with the breast-feeding. Which was a good thing, because we found out yrs. later that my daughter is lactose intolerate, so she would have become sick from any of the baby formulas on the market.

With all the fooling around with trying to breast feed & trying to give her bottles of formula & bottles of water, because my pediatrician insisted that babies needed water, my milk supply was very low. I rented & later purchased a Lactina® Plus Breastpump

On the advice of my LLL counselor, I used the pump in between feedings & after to increase my milk supply and it worked. It took about 2 weeks for my milk to build back up. If I didn't have the pump, then I was encouraged to try breast massage & hand expression. Thanks for your blog & all your info.

Nadia said...

Deb, If your daughter is/was lactose intolerant, how did she handle breast milk? Lactose is the main sugar in it. From what I've read, many formulas use corn syrup as their sugar source.

I saw a video on how to hand express, it looked like valuable information especially if you get caught without a pump or your baby and are feeling engorged.

Deb said...

In response to Nadia: my lactose intolerant daughter thrived on breast milk, even if I drank milk or ate ice cream. There were a couple of times that she had a stomach virus & breast milk was the only thing that she could keep down. On those rare occasions when she had to have baby formula, I had to use Nutriagen, very expensive, because it had pre-digested enzymes. But, she didn't tolerate that one very well. Breast milk was the only way to go. She nursed for 14-mons. My son nursed for 2-yrs. & my 3rd baby weaned herself at about 13-mons., because she was too busy trying to keep up w/her older siblings.

Louisa said...

I learned about hand expression a couple of years ago and have made a point of teaching virtually every client since how to do it, not only because it does seem to be a more effective way of boosting supply than a pump, but also because many women don't quite believe that there's milk there (and that causes anxiety with regard to 'is he getting enough'). While I was overseas there were no pumps and women with babies in the nursery only hand expressed - I was shocked sometimes at *just how much* colostrum those women would get in their little cups to feed those babies!! You're right also that it is an empowering thing, knowing how to get the milk flowing without the bells and whistles of a fancy pump. The other upside of the breast massage of course is that it's going to help prevent plugged ducts and edema/engorgement (along the reverse pressure softening lines).