Everyday without fail, I will read on mothers (new or going to be) posting questions or problems on which breast pumps to buy, what is wrong with their pumps as they are not able to pump a lot of their breastmilk (aka BM) or not enough volume or having engorgement so on and so forth.
And after reading all these, I will always think and said out loud in my mind "Why can't they consider or learn to express by hand?!"
Yes, I have my fair share of experience using the electric breast pumps back before I quit my job to be a SAHM. I was using the Medela mini electric breast pump which was a hand-me-down from 2 SILs few weeks before my maternity leave ended in preparation to stock up my BM so that Benjamin can have my EBM (aka expressed breastmilk) when I am at work.
** Image credit: Google search
When I went back to work, I used the Medela pump for about 1 week. It was noisy and cumbersome - everytime, I need to sterilise the pump all over and ensure that the battery is full and ready to be use at any time.
After a week, I learned to express my BM by hands. It is not easy of course but with practise, it can be done.
You don't need to attend courses to do it, just google "how to express breastmilk by hand" and you will get tons and tons of search results! Can't visualise it? YouTube it!
Back when I learned this, I only searched through websites and practise based on the diagrams on the website (I can't remember why I was not using YouTube!)
** Image credit: Google search
With a few practise and trials and errors (need to take note of the let-down!), it just simply eases up a lot of work! You don't need to lug around your breastpump when you express, you don't need to worry about no electric outlet to use, no worries about no batteries and sterilisation? What is there to sterilise except the containers to store your BM maybe?
I have psychoed and nagged a few mummy bloggers about the benefits of learning this and most of them just brushed me off saying they can rely on their electric pumps just fine. Sure, few weeks later, one of them told me they had to travel overseas by plane and her electric pump jammed in the flight due to air pressure and she had to resort to pumping with her own 2 hands. Another mummy had to go on-site and realised there's no electrical outlet and she ran out of batteries on her pump. So, what else? Hand express!
Personally I do feel happy knowing these new mums or mums-to-be plan to breastfeed their child, but before they go on and purchase a breast pump (or more as they realised some pumps are not right for them!), I do wish they could give hand expressing a try!
After all, other than the convenience, it helps a lot to express by hands as with your own fingers, you can actually feel which part of your breasts that are blocked or engorged and massaged it away.
As for efficiency of the output, my personal experience, when I use the Medela pump, I took about 20 minutes to pump 6oz of BM while it is 15 minutes for me to get the same amount using my own 2 hands. Much much more quieter, definitely convenient as no sterilisation, same output, faster, cheap (no need to buy pumps!) and even helps with engorgement and blocked ducts, why not?
So please new mums and/or mums-to-be, I hope you will at least go Google up how to express your BM by hand.
You might end up needing to fall back on your own bare hands one day!