Pumping Breast Milk

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Pumping Breast Milk

Mom may not always be able to breastfeed. This will be the case if she is planning on going back to work, have a night out or going on a vacation. In these cases mom can begin pumping breast milk using a breast pump to store milk for a later use. Pumping also helps ease engorgement and will maintain her milk supply.

“Expressing” breast milk can be done by hand or with a breast pump. Manual breast milk pumping (expression) is great for those on-the-go moments but requires more work and can leave your breasts sore from the uneven pressure of your hands.  Using a manual or electric breast pump will do the job much faster, easier & cleaner. There is no right or wrong way to collect your breast milk. If you choose a pump, by hand or a combination of the two, the methods of storage  are the same.

Its best to check with your doctor or lactation consultant to best advise you.

There are 4 kinds of pumps that are most commonly used:

Manual Pumps – for occasional pumping. Will extract breast milk one breast at a time.

High End Electric Pumps– best for women who will be away from their baby for longer periods (6 hours or more). Both breasts can be expressed at the same time.

Lower End Electric Pumps – best for moms who plan on having only short separations. Can express milk from one or both breasts at the same time.

Hospital Grade Pumps: best for women who need help establishing milk supply and can be rented. Can express milk from one or both breasts at the same time.
When you are getting ready to pump, ALWAYS wash your hands before using the pump and make sure that the accessories for the pump you will be using are clean. Also be sure to read the individual instructions for the pump as they may vary by brand and type of pump you are using.

Most pumps have the same basic parts such as a breast shield or flange, the pump itself and a container in which the milk will be going to. The electric pumps will have tubes that extend from the flange to the pump.

When pumping breast milk, be plan to pump 8 or more times a day to establish and/or maintain breast milk supply. Position yourself as comfortably as you can with some pillows and in an upright position (gravity helps with the flow of the milk).  There are also hands free pumping bras available for an easier time. Make sure to follow the steps and instructions indicated on your individual breast pump.

It is very important to use the right size flanges to ensure a good seal on your skin. Start out at the lowest setting and gradually build up the speed until milk starts to flow. Once milk flows, then turn speed down and turn the suction up. Pump at highest comfortable strength to keep the glands active and get them used to the pumping.

Keep in mind:

  • It’s important to pump for 15 minutes for each breast (30 minutes for a single sided pump
  • The amounts of milk will vary each time you pump and will change as baby grows
  • One breast may produce more than the other – this is perfectly normal
  • When the milk flow stops, then continue pumping for an additional 2 – 5 more minutes.
  • For those establishing their milk supply, mom should pump for a full 15 minutes even if she has no milk coming out

When ready to disconnect breast from pump, hold the bottle in place while you turn off pump and this will release the suction.  Let your breasts air dry or apply nipple cream over the nipples. There is no need to wash them as letting them air dry is really good for your breast and helps protect them from chaffing and drying up.

After pumping, clean pump parts carefully. Use a non-chemical, organic soap and bottle brush to scrub parts. Make sure they are clean and ready for the next pumping session. Pumping breast milk is a safe way to provide your baby with the nutrients needed for their development and growth.

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Next up –  our latest article in our series on Breastfeeding – Storing Breast Milk 101