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Breast Pump 101: What You Need To Know About Pumping Breast Milk

As mothers who breastfeed, we often rely on breast pump to support us on our breastfeeding journey. These trusty devices play a vital role in our lives by enabling us to store extra milk, easing discomfort caused by engorgement, and ensuring a steady milk supply.

However, selecting the right breast pump is merely the initial decision in a series of steps to fully leverage the advantages offered by this convenient tool.

In this comprehensive guide, we will delve into the timing of when to begin pumping, provide detailed instructions on how to effectively use your pump, and address the frequently asked questions surrounding this aspect of breastfeeding.

breast pump

When Should I Breast Pump?

For moms who primarily breastfeed and only pump occasionally, it’s beneficial to pump in the morning when milk production is typically at its highest. It’s also important to create a time gap of approximately one hour between breastfeeding and pumping sessions. You can pump an hour before your baby’s expected hunger or an hour after breastfeeding. This approach ensures an ample milk supply for both sessions.

On the other hand, for women who exclusively pump and do not breastfeed directly, it is advisable to pump approximately every 2.5 to 3 hours. Efficiently emptying your breasts during each pumping session signals your body to produce more milk, helping maintain a healthy supply.

How To Use A Breast Pump?

The method of using a breast pump depends on whether you opt for a manual or electric pump.

Manual pumps are budget-friendly, compact, portable, and simple to operate. Since you provide the hand power to express milk, it requires more time and effort. Remember that manual pumps allow you to express milk from one breast at a time, so the process takes twice as long as most electric pumps. We recommend manual pumps for moms who only pump occasionally.

A double electric pump is worth considering for mothers who anticipate frequent pumping sessions. This type of pump enables simultaneous expression from both breasts, saving you time and eliminating physical exertion. However, it’s important to note that electric pumps are considerably more expensive than their manual counterparts.

How to Use an Electric Breast Pump

1.Begin by placing the pump’s breast shields over your nipples, properly covering them.

2. Switch on the machine to initiate the pumping process.

3. It’s important to prioritize your comfort throughout the pumping session. Feel free to lower the intensity if you experience any discomfort from the suction. On the other hand, if you find that your milk is flowing too slowly, you can increase the suction level.

4. When your milk flow is decreasing, switch off the machine. To release the pump’s seal on your breast, gently use your finger to break the suction.

Remember to adjust the pumping settings to suit your comfort and to be mindful of the changes in milk flow during the process.

How to Use a Manual Breast Pump

1.To begin, it’s important to stimulate your milk let-down. Let-down refers to the movement of milk from the back of the breast to the front. You can gently massage your breasts or apply a warm washcloth to encourage this process.

2. Place the pump’s breast shield over your nipple, ensuring a secure and tight seal.

3. Hold the shield in position with one hand while using the other hand to squeeze the pump’s handle.

4. If you find milk isn’t flowing easily, try leaning forward slightly to take advantage of gravity.

5. Continue pumping until your milk flow starts slowing down.

Remember to encourage let-down, position the breast shield correctly, and maintain a steady pumping rhythm until your milk flow gradually decreases.

Important Tips to Remember

  • Before you start, you must ensure that your hands and pumping equipment are clean and sanitized.
  • It’s important to note that your milk won’t immediately flow as soon as you start pumping—it’s not as simple as turning on a faucet. Be patient and give your body some time to respond.
  • Avoid pulling off the breast shields while the pump is still running when using an electric pump, as it can be quite painful. Instead, switch off the pump first. Although the suction will cease, the shields will remain attached to your breasts due to the suction. To remove them, gently break the seal using your finger, and then carefully remove the breast shields.
  • Remember to maintain cleanliness, be patient with milk flow, and take care when removing the breast shields to ensure a comfortable pumping experience.

What are Breast Shields?

Breast shields, also known as flanges, play a vital role in the effectiveness of your breast pump. It’s essential to ensure you have properly fitting breast shields to achieve successful milk expression. Breast shields are the cup-like components you place on your breasts during pumping.

When selecting a breast shield, it’s important to consider your nipple size rather than your breast size. Remember that the breast shield size you used with a different pump may not fit your current needs best. Flange sizes can vary across different brands, and your nipple size might change after giving birth. Therefore, it’s essential to reassess your needs and select the appropriate breast shield size accordingly.

Finding the right fit when choosing breast shields for your pumping journey is important. You don’t want to opt for a too large flange, as it can result in your breast, not just the nipple, being drawn in during pumping. This can disrupt the natural flow of your breast milk, and as a result, your milk supply may be affected. Breastfeeding already comes with its challenges, so it’s important to avoid any unnecessary complications that could lead to a decrease in milk production.

If you experience pain rather than just discomfort while breastfeeding, it’s a sign that you should reassess the size of your breast shields. It’s possible that they may not be the right fit for your breasts, and finding the correct size can help alleviate the discomfort and promote a more positive breastfeeding experience.

Cleaning A Breast Pump

Different breast pumps may come with specific cleaning instructions, and the ease of cleaning can vary between models.

However, as a general guideline, it is recommended to rinse every piece that comes into contact with breast milk using hot water or wash them with soapy water followed by thorough rinsing. Certain components can be safely placed in the top rack of a dishwasher. After cleaning, allow the parts to air dry.

For additional sanitization, some breast pump parts can be sterilized using a baby bottle sanitizer or special bags designed for microwave sterilization.

Remember to follow the manufacturer’s instructions for cleaning and sterilizing your specific breast pump model, and ensure that all parts that come into contact with breast milk are properly cleaned to maintain hygiene and safety.

Tips for breast-pumping hygiene

  • Avoid using scented creams, lotions, or nipple creams, as they can potentially cause irritation.
  • If you use breast pads, change them at least twice a day to maintain cleanliness and prevent moisture buildup.
  • Opt for light, loose-fitting clothing made of breathable natural fabrics to promote airflow and reduce the risk of excessive sweating.
  • It’s important to wear a clean nursing bra daily to maintain hygiene and comfort.
  • Before each feeding session, wash your hands thoroughly to minimize the transfer of germs or bacteria.
  • Clean your breast pump as soon as possible after each use to prevent the growth of harmful bacteria. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for proper cleaning and sterilization.
  • If you’ve been sweating due to exercise or other activities, consider showering frequently and giving your breasts a quick wash before a feeding session.
  • Throughout the day, rinse your nipples with warm water to keep them clean and fresh. Afterward, gently pat them dry with a clean, soft towel.
  • By following these simple hygiene practices, you can promote the well-being of both yourself and your baby during the breastfeeding journey.

Tips for Expressing More Milk

Breastfeeding operates on a feedback mechanism where your body adjusts milk production based on demand. When your breasts are full and milk isn’t consumed, your body receives the signal to slow production. Conversely, if your breast milk is depleted rapidly, your supply will increase to meet the demand.

To boost your milk supply, it’s essential to regularly remove milk from your breasts, even if your baby isn’t yet nursing. This helps establish a consistent milk production routine. It might be tempting to believe that pumping more frequently leaves less milk for your baby, but the opposite is true. By consistently emptying and refilling your breasts, your body becomes better equipped to adapt to your baby’s needs.

If you have excess breast milk, remember that it can always be safely stored by freezing. Focus on maintaining a steady and consistent milk flow; soon enough, you’ll establish a harmonious rhythm with your baby.

Pumping Tips

Achieving efficient nursing: It’s crucial to ensure your baby is nursing well and has a good latch. A baby suckling at the breast is the best way to completely drain your breasts and promote optimal milk flow.

Frequent nursing sessions: Aim to breastfeed your baby every 2 hours during the day and every 3 hours during the night. Regular and consistent nursing helps stimulate milk production.

Consider galactagogues: You can explore the use of substances known as galactagogues, which are believed to increase milk supply. However, it’s always important to consult your doctor before taking new medications or supplements while breastfeeding.

Pump to enhance supply: Incorporating pumping sessions can be beneficial in addition to nursing. Try pumping for a few minutes after the last drop of milk to encourage continued milk flow and signal your body to produce more milk.

Maintain overall health: When breastfeeding, Taking care of your well-being is crucial. Ensure you have a balanced diet, get plenty of rest, and stay hydrated by consuming adequate fluids. These factors contribute to a healthy milk supply.

Alternate breast sides: During feedings, offer both breasts to your baby and switch sides midway through the feeding. This practice helps ensure an even milk supply and encourages balanced breast stimulation.

Pumping Breast FAQS

How soon should I start pumping breast milk?

It’s generally recommended to wait until breastfeeding is well established, typically after the first few weeks, before introducing pumping sessions.

Can I freeze and store pumped breast milk?

Absolutely! Properly stored breast milk can be frozen for future use. Use breast milk storage bags or containers designed for freezing and follow recommended guidelines for storage duration.

Is it normal for the amount of milk I pump to vary?

Yes, it’s completely normal for pumping output to fluctuate throughout the day. Hydration, stress levels, and time since the last nursing session can influence milk supply.

How can I increase my milk supply when pumping?

Pumping frequently and ensuring proper breast drainage can help signal your body to produce more milk. Additionally, staying hydrated, eating a balanced diet, and getting enough rest are important for milk supply.

How do I know if my breast pump is the right fit?

The proper fit is important for efficient pumping. Look for nipple tunnels that align well with your nipple size, and check for comfort and effective milk extraction during use.

What can I do if pumping is uncomfortable or painful?

Ensure that you have the correct flange size for your breast pump. Poor flange fit can cause discomfort. Adjusting suction levels and using warm compresses on the breasts before pumping may also help alleviate discomfort.