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Blog

The Art of Hand-Expressing Breastmilk

The Moringa Kitchen

Can you imagine the billions of stem cells contained in this small amount of breast milk? The photo above was my “harvest” one morning while Pia was about one month old.

There are so many new discoveries everyday about the amazing benefits of this liquid. One very interesting area in genetic studies is the existence of stem cells in breast milk. I don’t know about you, but to me the potential of finding cures and more therapeutic uses for humankind through human breast milk is mind- blowing.

There’s so much that’s yet to be discovered. And unlike embryonic stem cells which is the gold standard in stem cell research, breast milk stem cells do not present ethical concerns. I look at the future with no need for aborted baby parts to be used in research.

In my country, there are therapies and lots of false supplements touting stem cells for cure. There was a case of someone who died from illegal therapy, and lots other hilarious stories of ageing politicians drinking ( hold your horses! ) breast milk!

A seasoned breastfeeding champion in Manila told me this story of a lady who was entrusted with dispensing money for political projects, would buy breast milk in the guise of donating it to the communities. However, it’s not babies in need they gave it to but to some scrupulous politicians. They used breast milk to cure their ailments and to push their chances at longevity or beauty. Imbeciles. It's a shame when so many babies are far more in need and deserving of breast milk than them.

Anyway, there are good stories of adults and babies saved by breast milk. I had the chance to test it out of desperation. On the day after giving birth to Pia I caught a mean virus from the attending nurse who had a bad cough. I was quite upset because Pia was roomed-in and she made two visits to my room ( all the while coughing! ). And on the same day I got it. The body is quite vulnerable to anything post surgery and it was very upsetting to get ill unnecessarily.  

I can’t tell you in detail how painful it was to be wracked by bad coughing on the second day of recovery from CS. I could not stop coughing, every time I felt my insides were spasming, It was very painful despite the medication. I knew I had to get well quickly, if not, Pia would probably get it too. I did not want to go through another round of medicines for the cough that was already beginning to sound like a whopping cough.

I had expressed about 6oz of my milk that was very thick and looking surely like it's so packed with colostrum. I planned to save it for Pia but I thought I’d give it a shot that my own colostrum would heal me quickly. And yes it did. I consumed everything at once, and in less than 2 hours my coughing stopped. True. Cross my fingers and toes. I made sure as well that they did not make the sick nurse come back. When we got home, the toddlers were also having the sniffles and cough, so off they drank my milk too and needless to say, their cough and cold disappeared the next day! This idea may sound very weird to those who do not know anything about breastfeeding or what's good about breast milk. It really works!

This is my ode to this miraculous liquid.

And I thought it’s just right that I put one batch of my morning harvest on a pedestal.

I really think it's very good for moms as well to try hand expressing their milk. Perhaps some can’t do away with pumps, the comfort is there but many don’t know that hand expression can be practical, eventually it becomes convenient too. I’ve been doing this since 2010 when Nanay Lita taught me the simple method and later I found my own techniques. It is very gentle to your breasts. A scheduled period of hand-expression usually yield me 6oz to 8oz. I’ve traveled and stored milk in this manner. A fellow LATCH counselor also advised me to teach moms never to abuse our breasts by aiming for over-supply, and resort to over-pumping. We moms like to be “segurista”, and I understand it.


However, what we should aim for is sufficiency - just enough for our babies. I know there are many sick babies out there who need breast milk but you can donate what's enough from you. Do not aim to produce gallons and gallons of breast milk. But to the mom for some reason is able to do it - I am not putting you down, and what a blessing you are to so many sick babies. But too many moms complain about not having enough breast milk and ideas of over-stocking milk can make it more discouraging for their breastfeeding goals.

Sufficiency is the key word to remember. We cannot be aiming for a freezer full of breast milk at the expense of our sanity. I could barely take good enough showers the first days, the hell should I aim for a gallon of my breast milk!

Just relax mommy.

Fix the Latch, get to know your baby, do unlimited feeding and your supply will flow. If there are problems, get in touch with a true breastfeeding-friendly pediatrician or counselor. 

Do little things that make you happy.

Pray.

Relax.

Keep on feeding ( direct at the breast ).

Repeat.