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Thinking about exclusively expressing... thoughts and experiences?

(27 Posts)
MotherPanda Wed 17-Aug-11 10:57:24

My DD is now three weeks old and things have been tricky for us from the beginning - for unknown reasons she wasn't interested/couldn't feed for the first few days of life so I had to express colostrum and syringe feed it to her untill my milk came in, when we started to use a bottle to feed her.

saw a good few midwives/health visitors/breastfeeding support people, but they could never get her to latch on, untill one suggested using nipple shields on day 3 - as she could drink from a bottle but not from me.

this worked well for a bit, but we spend an awful lot of time fighting at the breast, she's awful for falling asleep and she never seems satisfied (still sucking hand after an hour feed etc), and i'm just hating it. We were advised to still give her some expressed milk - so i've been giving her three feeds a day of expressed milk and putting her to the breast on demand (which is pretty constant).

when she has a 2 or 3oz feed from the bottle she will be content, and go 2 or 3 hours till the next feed, wheras at the breast she wants feeding every hour or less (i dont move from the sofa).

so, i'm considering turning to exclusively expressing - as neither of us seem to be enjoying breastfeeding. do you think it's too early to make this decision?

i'd be really interested in hearing from those who have exclusively expressed - my plan is to express every 3 hours for 15mins (using a double pump), untill dd is 10weeks and then consider dropping a feed after that. at the moment i pump in the evening, night and morning (11pm,3am,6.30amish).

would love to hear stories!

p.s - sorry for the lack of capitals, typing one handed is tricky.

Booboostoo Wed 17-Aug-11 11:16:46

I am by no means an expert at this but will tell you my experience for what it's worth and bump the thread for you...

Sorry to hear you are having trouble bfing. I found it quite hard going too (for different reasons, I was in a lot of pain until about week 7) but it did get a lot better eventually. My DD bfs A LOT (now 11 wks old), she can feed for half an hour at two hour intervals, or she can sit down and feed continuously for an hour and half! As a result I only have time to express about 50mls a day and she needs 100mls to spend 2 hours with my DH. So, I suppose what I am trying to say is that you may need to express a lot more than your post suggests to keep her going. You may find you are tied to the pump all the time, but I don;t know if that would be a problem for you or not.

As another thought, have you tried different holds, e.g. feeding lying down, or the under arm hold (not sure that's it's proper name!) or the breast crawl?

b00kw0rm Wed 17-Aug-11 11:27:46


I gave up directly b'feeding DD at about 4 weeks and expressed for her until about 3-4 months, so I can really sympathise with your situation. Expressing is definitely not an easy option, but for me it was the right thing to do. It's great if you have a double pump as that should speed things up and you definitely need to be expressing 7-8 times a day initially IME.

I basically expressed after every bottle feed DD had, but TBH did find it hard to keep up with her growing demands as I had to work really hard just to get 100mls from both boobs... so ended up mix feeding her formula and BM.
I stopped expressing when DD starting sleeping through regularly as you really have to express in the night to keep your supply up.

In hindsight, I wish I had persisted in asking for help with BF as with DS (DC2), I also struggled initially but managed to BF him exclusively till 6m, still feeding now at 9.5m. Or I wish I could have just switched to formula without feeling so guilty! So expressing can be an alternative, but not an easy one by any means...

Sorry that's a bit rambling- still have lots of emotions about BF (or not) the DC.

b00kw0rm Wed 17-Aug-11 11:33:45

Also, here is a link to a list of resources if you do decide to go down the expressing route:
List of support
It definitely would have helped me to know that I wasn't the only mum in a similar position as I felt like a bit of a freak! (I felt like BF mums couldn't understand why I wasn't just BF and FF mums couldn't understand why I didn't just give formula.)

Sidge Wed 17-Aug-11 11:40:03

I exclusively expressed for 9 months for DD2 (she was tube fed and couldn't suck at all due to genetic disorder).

It was hard work and a huge commitment. Also remember if only expressing that to maintain supply it needs to be done about every 3 hours day and night, and to continue night expressing for the first couple of months to really establish supply. It's very time consuming as you need to sterilise equipment, then express, then feed, then clean and sterilise equipment again. You may find that even with a double pump 15 minutes isn't enough, or that your supply can't keep up with her volume demands as she gets older/bigger.

Having said all that it's great to want to give breastmilk, so if you are committed to that then you will do what you need to do!

MotherPanda Wed 17-Aug-11 11:53:43

thanks for your replys - boo, we only feed underarm (its called the rugby hold!) or lying down, only way we can hope to stay attached for any length of time. I've tried the crawl a few times - but she just gets really distressed as she cant latch on.

I think the truth is, i feel happier spending my time attached to my breastpump rather than to my daughter which makes me feel incredibly guilty and sad. its just not a happy bonding experience for us - we spend the time with her fighting, me restraining and one or other of us crying -i know i should be waiting at least untill the six week post to make any changes, but in some ways i just want to give in now. Can it get better? will she just figure it out one day?

i suppose i could keep a couple of breastfeeds in my 'routine' so that we could try to go back to breastfeeding one day if we wanted to...

i'm not too worried about supply, as i can easily get 180ml during the night/morning pumps -the day its more like 90 - but i think thats normal, as prolactin levels are low etc - i would experiment with more frequent pumping to get the right amount i suppose.

MotherPanda Wed 17-Aug-11 11:57:21

bookworm - good to hear you managed to continue for a few months. keeping up supply is definetly a worry for me, i dont oppose ff use, but i don't want to have to use it myself - i've got the milk, its just getting it into the baby thats the problem!

StrikeUpTheBand Wed 17-Aug-11 11:57:53


I did this with my DS, who was born prematurely and never managed to latch on. We got home on nipple shields, but after few days of dry nappies and weightloss I gave him a bottle of EBM. I found that it was hard, but due to his prematurity he wasn't having so much at first and I had been expressing for the 5 weeks he was in hospital, so had built up a supply.

I carried on exclusively expressing for 6 months, then from 6-7 months I gradually moved onto formula. I could have carried on longer (didn't dry up or anything as some people will try to suggest), but by then I had (to be honest) had enough and wanted to enjoy my son before going back to work.

When DD came along I expected the same problems - she did latch on but wasn't feeding effectively. She had EBM and some formula (was threatened with Paeds in hospital if I didn't comply - before I had even voiced any opposition - but that's another story. I went along at home for a while trying to wean off 'top-ups' but each time she lost weight drastically. Eventually I decided to mostly express her milk but she still fed for comfort. It was easier this time as I seemed to have more milk.

It isn't easy, but there are ways to make things simpler. With DS I would express into bottles and had loads of the Avent bottles to pour them into to make feeds, which I would then label and then refrigerate. I was usually 1-2 days ahead so this helped knowing which order to use them. I bought loads of pump bits, but with DD realised that using the 'fridge trick' (sterilizing once every 12 hours or so, but rinsing in between and putting in a ziplock bag in the fridge) was better. I used an Ameda Lactaline Personal which I would highly recommend, and double pumped with an expressing bra while on the laptop or playing with children. I had a hand pump which I would take out with me if I was going to be out a while. There are loads of feeding areas in many towns and you learn to know where these are (alternatively in your car if you drive).

You have to express as often as possible, for 20-25 minutes or 5 minutes past the last drip, whichever is sooner. You can sometimes go a bit longer if you are stuck somewhere but remember the better pumping habits you have now the better your pumping yield will be after the first 11-12 weeks.
I hope this helps. Let me know if I can help further.

MotherPanda Wed 17-Aug-11 12:02:55

sidge - 9 months sounds brilliant! i want to be able to give dd my milk for as long as possible, so its great that it is possible with ee.

you see, pumping even every 2-3 hours day and night, and keeping everything clean and sterile as well as feeding the baby does sound a lot easier than feeding her from the breast. i look forward to the three feeds a day im doing at the moment as my break!

pumping in public could take some getting used to though, hard to do that discretly!

supply is my biggest worry - but hopefully if it starts to dwindle, i can just add in extra pumping sessions?

has anyone every used medicines/herbs to increase supply? are they any good?

MotherPanda Wed 17-Aug-11 12:14:31

strikeuptheband - thanks for sharing your story! the fridge trick sounds brilliant, also interested in an expressing bra - do you think it would work if i just cut holes into an old bra?

i'm not opposed to allowing dd to occasionally suck for comfort, which i suppose would do wonders for supply.

5 mins beyong the last drip sounds like a good idea - can i ask how you went about portion sizes? i've heard the average is 25oz a day, what did yours have?

i want to be able to do this untill atleast the six month mark, and hopefully beyond if all goes well.

feeding rooms are a brilliant idea- i've seen one in mothercare, is there anywhere else that often has them? i have a single electric pump that is battery powered, but very noisy - so getting a hand pump for when out and about would be a good idea. got a spectra3 pump on its way to me in the post so i can double pump. i'm building up quite the collection!

throckenholt Wed 17-Aug-11 12:15:12

this is from quite a distance - mine are now 10 and 8 !

With DS1 it took a month of struggle to get him feeding directly - managed to fool him in the end by using a bottle teat over my nipple to get him started and then wipped it out once he was stuck (didn't always work). He was BF until 12 months after that and wouldn't touch a bottle after the initial phase (whole other problem !).

DS2&3 twins 1 month prem - too small to feed directly. Never managed to get them to do it (no time to devote to it with toddler ds1 as well). I expressed for 9 months for them - and was heartily sick of it.

I wouldn't recommend expressing if there is another option - so would say keep trying BF for another few weeks. If you are expressing then do it every 3-4 ours (through the night too), no more than 20 mins, double pump, and have as much skin time with the baby as you can. And supplement if you need to - stressing over how much you are expressing is a real killer.

Good luck.

MotherPanda Wed 17-Aug-11 12:25:03

throckenholt - your babies are all growed up smile

this is the trick with the nipple shields - try to fool dd into drinking from me like a bottle - she gets very distressed when i try to whip them off though, can you remember how long it took to get the bottle teat off ds1?

wow, 9 months of expression with twins, i can understand why you would be sick of it.

i know i should carry on breastfeeding (am trying to at the moment) its just so heartbreaking.

throckenholt Wed 17-Aug-11 12:38:55

the whole process is knackering and demoralising - you think there is something wrong with you - there ISN'T. I think some babies just don't have a suck reflex until they are a month or more old. DS1 was a 38 weeker, and it took at least a month to get him feeding normally. He used to scream as if I was torturing him when I tried. Lots of tears sad.

Nipple shields didn't work for us, I resorted to using the avent bottle teat instead (since that was what he drank from on the bottle). It probably took a couple of weeks to get to trying that, and maybe another couple to get off them. Some feeds it worked, others I just had to keep the teat in there. Patience (not my strong point) and sheer bloody mindedness got us through. It is a case of trying to pick your time to remove it - have to be feeding well, milk flowing, so that it is easy to carry on sucking and get instant reward. Maybe you could try hand expressing first to get the milk flowing and then put dd straight on without the shield (at least some times).

I didn't have the energy to do it with the twins though - I decided breast milk in any form was better than none and concentrated the time I had on expressing rather than trying to get them feeding and then expressing as well. I still vaguely regret it if I think about it now, but pragmatically I accept I just didn't have the time and energy to make it work for the twins (they seem none the worse for it smile.

By the way - no reason why you have to go through the battle every feed - only do it when you are feeling relaxed enough.

Good luck.

Zoe20 Wed 17-Aug-11 20:15:04

Hi MotherPanda

My DS is now 15 weeks old and I have been exclusively expressing since he was five weeks. BF didn't work for various reasons (flat nipples, pain, tongue tie...). Initially I pumped 7 times a day, took fenugreek tablets and domperidone (motilium) and managed to maintain a good supply, even managing to freeze about 10 oz a day as well. I gradually dropped a couple of pumps and at about 12 weeks was down to 4 a day without affecting supply too much. I found I could express at midday-ish and then not again till about 4.30/5pm, which meant I could go out for lunch with friends without worrying about expressing.

I made the decision when I started not to pump at night if DS slept through (he started sleeping 11-6-ish from about 8 weeks and I was desperate for the sleep!) and actually found it didn't affect supply.

I use a hired Medela symphony double pump which reallly helped with speed and volume, would definitely recommend.

Good luck - you can definitely do it! It's not the easiest thing and definitely not what I would have chosen but there are benefits - DH can help out, you know how much he's getting etc, can help with getting into a routine etc.

Zoe20 Wed 17-Aug-11 20:23:40

I should add that we give DS one formula feed (last thing at night) - that allows me to freeze the 10 oz of breast milk!

sarahev Thu 18-Aug-11 09:46:20


I am currently expressing for DD 9 months. I manage fine on 4 10 minute pumps a day (and have done since she started sleeping through so I stopped pumping in the night)

My best advice is get a decent pump - I bought a Medela freestyle and it was MUCH netter than anything I used in the hospital or hired from the chemist - maybe because it was a new pump? Hands free definitely helps too!

No sign of my milk drying up as is often suggested either and now sometimes if I am out and about I only pump 3 times that day.

Yes sometimes I do regret that we were not able to bf successfully (although usually only when I am reading this board...........) but expressing does have it's advantages - DH was able to feed her and he really appreciated being able to do this and it does mean you can leave the baby and not have to worry about having to be back by a certain time.

Whatever you decide - wishing you all the best

MotherPanda Thu 18-Aug-11 18:06:36

zoe - thanks, did you take took fenugreek tablets and domperidone from the word go? is it ok to take these long term, or do you only take them for a short while, if you notice a decrease in supply.

glad i wouldn't have to keep up the 2-3 hourly pumps forever! having the afternoon or night to myself sounds wonderful!

as you say - DH being able to do some of the feeds in the night is wonderful. I had to go to the dentist this week, and it was wonderful not to have to bring dd, or panic about her going hungry at home.

I really enjoy expressing, although i'm sure the novelty will wear off eventually!

MotherPanda Thu 18-Aug-11 18:16:26

sara - pleased to see that you are only having to do 3 or 4 pumps a day, but i suppose that's only possible after they've started solids?

i do feel guilty about wanting to give up on trying to bf directly - but when i talk to family about it they keep saying 'why?' as she's still getting breastmilk.

i also worry about people judging me in public and thinking 'another young mum feeding her baby formula'. I know this is silly for a number of reasons, but i still feel that way!

i think i will still try to keep some breastfeeds in there for a while, just to see if she can get the hold of it as she gets older. maybe once a day (has images of lovely cuddly feeds - reality check!).

i feel as if i've decided to ee... but am reluctant to commit. I suppose i'm hoping things will get better? or that i don't want to be seen to be giving up on bf too early?

CharlieMumma Thu 18-Aug-11 19:39:19

I had the exact same problem with my DS, I couldnt get him to latch for the first 4 weeks and spend the whole time expressing to keep on step ahead of him and make sure there was always milk in the fridge for his next feed.

However it is incredible difficult and often become quite painful, i suffered with engorged breasts because a pump doesnt drain the breast anywhere near the same as a baby even the double ones. I would highly recommend going to breast feeding groups or seeing if there are any breastfeeding peers or support workers based at your local childrens centre. I had an excellent lady who spent time with me at home and had DS latched on within 15 minutes - i nearly cried!! she then returned ever week for 3 weeks to support me and check we were getting on ok I have been BF now for 6 months and am now mix feeding along with weaning on to solids.

Try and get some support as once baby latches on you will never look back - i found a breast feeding support pillow amazingly helpful.

Good luck with it all though and dont feel quilty what ever you choose to do. I am a first time young(ish) mum to

MotherPanda Thu 18-Aug-11 20:12:08

charlie, thank you. i have seen a fair few people - had an awful time at the last breastfeeding support group i went to - they just tried ramming her on, 20 minutes od dd in distress and me in tears.

however, have seen one useful lady so far... so will go back to see her. if it worked, it would be easier straight from source. Its good to know that you where able to get ds to latch on after 4 weeks smile

sarahev Thu 18-Aug-11 21:20:24


Just for info I managed to cut to 4 pumps well before we started weaning, as soon as she started to sleep through - if she didn't wake up then I didn't pump. I do agree that if you can get her to latch on then that is great - but I just wanted to clarify that my double pump most certainly drains my milk completely from each breast - and in fact much better than my daughter ever did as otherwise we would not have had a problem in the first place!

Alicat79 Thu 18-Aug-11 22:04:56

Hi Motherpanda, I so empathise with everything that you say. I've been pretty much expressing exclusively for my DS, who is now 5 months, since the beginning. He was in special care for much of his 1st week, could never get him to latch, out of desperation gave him formula and started expressing. When we came home was too scared really to mess with what was working and kept doing the expressing and bottles. Anyway, to cut a long story short, exclusive expressing has worked well for me and perfectly for my DS. I've never had any probs with supply- got a double avent pump, pumped after every feed for 10 mins in the early days but gradually cut down so I now only do it 3-4 times a day and not at all at night. I even went to T in the Park for a day and only had to pump once (in a portaloo-glam!) I was warned that my supply wouldn't keep up but no probs at all, have never taken anything for it, he drinks 240ml x 5 a day!

I feel occasional regret about it, most of it linked to feeling I was missing out on some magical bond. I took DS to breastfeeding clinics about 8 wks in - he hated it and screamed so much it was awful. How is putting yourself through that good for either of you? So I gave it up again. I did feel a bit freakish as no one else seemed to be doing what I was. But on balance I really feel the expressing has given us the best of both worlds. DS has had no formula since he was a week old, which is important to me. My partner has been able to feed him too which has helped their bond. I haven't found it time-consuming really, any more than my friends who BF. I can go out and am not tied to DS because he won't take a bottle, like a lot of my friends. Ironically, a couple of my Nct friends recently started exclusively expressing too for some of these reasons!

Most bizzarely of all, I discovered a few weeks ago that my DS would BF with the aid of nipple shields as long as he wasn't starving, and not prepared to work for it! So we've been doing one BF a day ever since! Have accepted that he will never be a fully BF baby! So, to sum up, EE is possible, has many advantages and I don't regret doing it. DS is well fed and very happy and that's the most important thing. good luck!!

Alicat79 Thu 18-Aug-11 22:06:15

So the point of that last bit was, you may well be able to get her to BF in the future- it's not an either or situation!

Lynders Thu 18-Aug-11 22:46:47

drop me an email and I'll send u my leaflet. My DD is over 9 months now and ive exclusively expressed evry ounce of her milk and been able to donate to the human milk bank. Its completely possible. My advice leaflet is specifically about EE and all its quandries!! smile

MotherPanda Fri 19-Aug-11 10:25:46

alicat - portaloo expressing, very classy! Its really encouraging hearing all these positive stories - I'm yet to meet an ee mum who did run out of milk... is it a myth?

I think i'd like to try and bf with nipple shields at least once a day, could be a handy skill for us both to have when out and about if pumping isn't possible for some reason. And, as you say, maybe when dd is a bit older and bigger we might actually be able to bf.

Getting distressed at the bf support sessions is definetley NOT a good thing. Afterwards I felt really down and worthless- and didn't want to try feeding dd at all. (more guilty feelings - is this what motherhood is?!)

Its funny - because everyone mentions how time consuming ee is - but for me, i express in 15mins, and then she feeds in 10/15 which is a lot quicker than the 45-90min fights feeds we have. I already mentioned that using the expressed milk decreases the frequency of her feeds too.

There are tons of benefits to ee, to me its the easy option.

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