Here are some things to know about breast pumping. Maybe you want to supplement, boost milk supply, want a little freedom from the breast, involve other family members in the feeding of baby, get a milk stash, going back to work, you’re done with nursing, or you don’t want to breastfeed–whatever the case, it’s time to pump, so let’s get to it!
Selecting a Pump
Lots of choices here: Medela, Evenflo, Lansinoh, Nuks, Phillips, Ameda, etc. Depending on your preference you can be as hands on (using manual pump) or hands off (automatic/electric) with breast pumping as you like. I recommend using a double pump because it is faster and more efficient. I used the Medela pumps with both of my kids and found them easy to use. Specifically, I used Medela Freestyle and Medela Pump in Style. I liked the small size of the Freestyle and made it easy to take along to work or when traveling. The Pump in Style has more options to adjust speed of pumping. It is definitely larger than the Freestyle but comes in a tote or bag (depending on what you choose) so easy to carry around too. I linked the products above so you can check out the products and read about it to see if it fits your needs. Since pumps can get pricey, I’d recommend checking online to see if the pump is covered by your insurance or calling your insurance company directly. Here are some ways to check your coverage: Medela , Aeroflow, Insurance covered breast pumps, Ameda.
Choosing the right sized flange
In this case, size matters. Choosing the wrong size flange can cause a lot of unnecessary discomfort. Here’s a quick guide to see if you have the right size or need to get a different one. When pumping, it should not hurt, pinch, or feel uncomfortable. If any of these happen, check to ensure proper fit and adjust speed of pump.
Once you start the pump, you will first have a few minutes of quick pumping to elicit let down. During this time, I recommend you relax, hydrate with some water, look at pictures or videos of your baby, get in your mental happy place. Just like with nursing, stress is counterproductive to pumping. So, don’t be focusing on amount of milk expressed or multitasking on some other work because for some women, it can actually decrease milk expression. Select the speed on pump that feels like gentle tugging. If there is pain or feels sore, reduce speed to a comfortable level.
Pump for an adequate amount of time
Milk production is a demand-supply system. Not fully emptying the breast tells the brain and body that less milk is needed so as a result less milk will be produced. For moms with plentiful milk production, this reduction is fine. However, for moms trying to increase or maintain supply, the decrease in milk supply may not be desired. So what’s the magic number? How long should you pump? If you are just starting out and/or do not have the best milk supply, then doing sessions of 30 mins on a double pump is best. If you have plentiful milk supply and respond well to pump or have been pumping for a while and body is used to it, then shorter 15 mins on a double pump should be fine.
Storing Breastmilk Correctly
After pumping, can store the milk in bags, bottles, or a combination of both. Pumped breastmilk can be stored at room temp or insulated container, fridge, freezer, or deep freezer. Some guidelines on storage by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) here, the Mayo Clinic here, and the CDC here.
Cleaning the Pump
You pumped and it was successful! Now to clean it so it is ready for the next session.
Adjust your expectations
Of note, not all women respond well to pumps. For example, baby may be feeding well, often, and gaining weight well but when pumping the milk expressed makes you question if you are feeding your baby enough. Fear not. Unless baby is losing weight, not making enough wet or dirty diapers, or if the pediatrician is recommending that you supplement, you are likely making enough milk. You just may not be responding well to the pump. This doesn’t mean to give up on pumping as you may just need to pump regularly for body to adjust. Time of day also affects pump output, with early mornings showing greater output and then tapering off throughout the day and evening.
Keep a good milk supply
Importance of good hydration and nutrition cannot be stressed enough. However, if you are noticing that despite doing these things your milk supply is decreasing, you may want to consider ways to boost milk supply. My post on breastfeeding discusses ways to boost milk supply, including lactation teas and cookies as well as galactologues.
What are some other things you found helpful when pumping? What did you wish you knew before starting to pump?
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