Q: I never manage to express much milk for my baby, despite trying tips like looking at a photo of her while I’m expressing. Are there any other ways I can try to get more milk out for her?
A: Lactation consultant and early parenting coach Vanessa Christie, author of The Baby Feeding Book (Piatkus available now), says: “Oxytocin, aka ‘the love hormone’, is the major player in being able to express the most milk. It’s responsible for sending out messages from the brain to shift the milk forwards and out of the breast, in a process known as the let-down reflex.
“When we feel acutely analytical and/or stressed, cortisol and adrenaline spike and can put up hormonal blockers to letting oxytocin flow.
“Therefore, to maximise how much milk we access, aim for the opposite and focus on heightening feelings of calmness, positivity, confidence, connection and warmth.
“Try looking at ways you could realistically bring more calm and kindness into your life to boost this feel-good factor.
“This may include finding new ways to prioritise rest, ensuring any pain you have is effectively controlled, staying hydrated, eating healthy ‘good mood’ foods, reducing or stopping smoking and generally aiming to let go of any perfectionist tendencies by being kind to and forgiving of yourself.
“Before expressing, get as comfortable as possible by releasing any tension in your muscles, ensure you’re warm, and check any pump you’re using fits well.
“Have your baby close by, or where this isn’t possible, wrap an item of clothing or her blanket around your neck so you can smell her. Take some deep breaths in and exhale with a long sigh.
“With warm hands, begin massaging your breasts with gentle movements.
“It sounds kooky but while you’re doing this you could try using visualisations, such as imagining a river of your milk flowing in abundance out into the sea.
“Similarly, saying positive affirmations out loud such as ‘I’m proud of everything my body does for me’ really can help too. As you start expressing, stay chilled by listening to music, watching funny TV, chatting to a friend or simply gazing at your baby — essentially anything that helps you feel relaxed and present in this moment.
“Finally, using a spare hand to massage and compress your breast both while you’re expressing and after you’ve finished using a pump is a great tool for accessing even more milk.”