Many nursing moms who have had to express their milk can probably relate to feeling frustrated or embarrassed by the process. "I feel like a cow!" is a common remark from lactating women who have found themselves hooked up to suction cups, plastic tubing and an annoyingly loud and conspicuous motor.
For new nursing moms, a new study out of the University of California, San Francisco (and reported in The New York Times) offers a suggestion: You might have better results by hand expressing your milk than using a breast pump, at least at the start.
When newborn babies are having trouble breastfeeding, moms can express by hand or by machine. The study shows moms who expressed by hand were more likely to still be nursing several months later that moms who used a pump, by a margin of 97 percent to 72.7 percent.
Embarrassment may play a factor (funny how something so natural can feel so awkward, right?). Researchers found that those who expressed by hand were more comfortable expressing milk with others present. Also, though the amount of milk expressed was about the same in each group, those who hand expressed were satisfied with the amount, but those who used the machines with large collecting cups may have felt discouraged at what seemed like inadequate results.
Based on the results, the lead researcher of the study says that either method is fine to use, but that hand expressing is the better way to go.