Without doubt there is a lot of pressure on women to breastfeed. I never felt this pressure by anyone. Maybe it's because I had always planned to so there was no "oh well you should try and feed her yourself". I know however that this happens all too often. When I was pregnant I Googled how to breastfeed and clue myself up as much as I could, I also looked for information around expressing. This was very confusing as I read a lot of conflicting information so I've decided to share my experience in the hope it may help someone as clueless as I was. Everything from how and when, storing milk and what bottles we use. I really do hope it helps clear up that grey area that is expressing.
I think the current guidelines are that you should wait until 6 weeks before expressing, this is so you don't confuse your milk supply as it's not fully established until then. I was a little bit sneaky and started to express at 3 weeks. I was however under the guidance of my local breastfeeding team who said that it would be fine. I was warned that when I first started to express that I would only get a teaspoonful. They weren't lying. It was the tiniest amount. I put the milk into a storage pot and put in the fridge. Breast milk keeps for 7 days in the fridge. The next day I went to Boots in the hunt to find a bottle. In the end I settled for a Nuby natural touch one. It was the one that sounded like it was the closest to a nipple and you could squeeze the bottle to mimic the natural flow of breastfeeding. The following day my Husband fed Edith and she took the bottle so well. From that day she has continued to take the bottle well. When she feeds from the bottle she will only feed for hunger instead of comfort, so she feeds a lot less.
I was expressing to begin with, with a pump from the breastfeeding team. I had loaned it for 2 weeks so I could see if I could express. All of the midwives had told me that if I wanted to express that I should buy an electric pump as a hand pump would kills my hands. I bought an Ameda Purely Yours Single Pump. It cost just over £100 but it's been worth every penny and will come in handy when we have more children. The Ameda pump, like most of them has two dials. One for suction and one for speed. When you first start to pump you want to have the speed on a higher range, the suction should be on a mid range. After the initial flow (the let down) has finished you then turn down the speed and up the suction. Again this all mimics breastfeeding. It's amazing at how quickly you get the hand of things and you know what settings will work best for you. I have always had a lot of milk so I could easily express 150ml of milk in under 10 minutes however everyone, and their milk supply is different so you may get less or more depending on your milk supply.
You will need a steriliser as the breast pump cup and valve will need sterilsing before every use. It also needs washing (but you probably worked that one out). You will also need to sterilse bottles like normal.
I find it much easier to store the milk in storage bags from Boots. They are a little pricey (in my opinion) for something so small, but I guess anything baby related comes at a price. You just put the milk in them and pop them in the freezer. Milk keeps for 6 months, so make sure you write the date on it. To defrost the milk to use all you need to do is dip the storage bag in hot kettle water to defrost them. You will find that the milk separates, the fat on top and the water underneath it's important that you don't shake it to combine, we were told that it can make the milk taste soapy. Instead you should gently tip the milk from side to side until it's combined.
The best thing about expressing is that you get to share the beauty that is feeding a baby. It also gives you the freedom to take a break every now and then. Breastfeeding is full on and bloody exhausting but it's one of the most amazing experinces.
I hope I've answered a lot of the questions around expressing. If not feel free to tweet me @littlepaperswan.