Maybe you’ve been planning to exclusively breastfeed or, at least, feed your baby breastmilk most of the time. However, occasionally work and life in general can get in the way of this noble plan. Fortunately, we live in a world where breast pumps can help you give your little one the nutrition she needs straight from your own body.
New moms who intend on doing this, however, may find breast pump use a bit daunting. After all, it’s probably a fairly new contraption in their lives. One that they probably have not used on themselves before.
Once you get the hang of it, though, breast pumps are pretty easy to use. Here’s a run through on how to get yourself pumping out that milk in no time.
15 Get a Good Pump
First of all, get a good quality pump that suits your needs. You’ll find that you have a ton of options and it’s worth exploring the unique features of each kind of pump, as well as how they can fit into your budget.
The two general categories of pumps are manual and electric pumps. Electric pumps tend to be faster and more convenient, with some allowing you to pump both breasts at the same time. This is certainly an advantage to working moms who want to get pumping done as efficiently as possible. However, some moms do find that they get more control and comfort out of the manual. Your preference is really up to you, as long as you buy a pump that will last you a long time.
14 Pump During Feeding Schedule
The best feeding schedule is one that mimics your little one’s own feeding schedule. This way, your body anticipates milk production and knows when to produce it. For most babies, this is usually about every two to three hours. You’ll probably get a gist of your baby’s preferred schedule during your maternity leave.
If you’re working, make sure to schedule your breaks so that they fall on these hours so you can get a-pumping without any rush.
13 Wash Your Hands
Before anything else, make sure your hands are clean. Remember, you will be handling your baby’s food so it’s important that you don’t contaminate it. Your baby’s immune system isn’t perfectly mature yet. Microorganisms that may not do anything to you may cause her harm if they end up in her milk. Make sure you employ the proper handwashing technique, where you are able to wash all of your hand’s surfaces thoroughly.
12 Find a Good Place
Look for a nice, comfortable place where you are able to relax. If you’re lucky, your workplace might offer a private area dedicated for nursing or pumping mothers. Otherwise, you might be able to request a room or a quiet location where you can pump in peace.
This is an important part of the process because you might not be able to trigger milk letdown if you’re distracted or uncomfortable. If necessary, you might want to take a few deep breaths or get into a meditation exercise before pumping.
11 Prep All Your Things
To ensure that you don’t have to reach around or go back to your cubicle for things that you need, make sure that all your breast pumping equipment are in place and within reach.
You’ll obviously need your breast pump and breast shield, as well as storage bottles or bags for the expressed milk. You will also want to keep a nursing cover handy in case someone enters the room abruptly. Finally, keep some nipple cream handy to help relieve the nipple soreness you might get from frequent pumping.
10 Stimulate Letdown
Now that you’re all primed up for pumping, you need to trigger your body’s milk letdown reflex. Some moms get triggered almost immediately, even with just the thought of their baby, which as you might imagine can lead to a few accidents.
However, new moms in particular may not be as fast to let down their milk, at least at first. Some moms do this by applying a warm compress over their breasts to help dilate the milk ducts. Others shake or massage their breast around their nipple. Yet others only need to listen to an audio recording of their crying baby!
9 Sit Properly
The best breastfeeding position is simply just sitting down comfortably. Some moms find that it’s easier to pump when they lean forward, allowing gravity to help pull down the milk.
One thing that might help is keeping handy a few pillows or other support items to help you out. Many moms love those C-shaped travel neck pillows to help them keep comfortable throughout their pumping session.
8 Place the Pump
Speaking of Cs, you will want to bring out your nipple by compressing the area around it with your hands. This can be done by positioning your fingers in a C-shape behind your areola and then pressing back.
You’ll know when you’ve hit the sweet spot when you squirt out some milk. Once in this position, place the breast shield over your nipple. You may then put on the open end of the breast pump over your nipple. This should not cause you any discomfort. Some electric breast pumps allow for hands-free operations so that you can do other things while waiting for it to finish pumping.
7 For Electric Pumps
For electric pumps, simply set the dial for pumping pressure and turn it on. When you’re starting out, you might want to start out low and then gradually increase the pressure, depending on what feels comfortable.
Leave the pump as it is until no more milk comes out. When you’re starting out, you may not get any more than a few drops. However, as you go on you might be able to pump milk for up to 15 minutes.
6 For Hand Pumps
Hand pumps can take much longer to pump out milk, although some moms prefer them for the control they have, not to mention the cheaper price. Putting it on is similar to the electric one, although you can easily adjust its position in the middle of pumping.
Controls vary, but they usually involve squeezing or pressing against a plunger to express milk. If the pressure of the pump is uncomfortable, you can control the release of the vacuum with your hand. Alternately, you might want to change its position occasionally for maximum comfort.
5 Store Collected Milk
Once you’ve collected all the milk you can, you’ll want to store it for future use. Many moms like using freezer-safe bottles for this purpose. Others, however, prefer specialized breastmilk bags, similar to small Ziploc containers.
When storing the milk, don’t put everything in one big bag to freeze and refreeze. Instead, divide it into feeding-sized portions so that none of it will go to waste. These portions will depend on your child’s age and appetite. If you’re at work, keep the bags in a cooler or a container that you can put in the office freezer as it might spoil at room temperature.
4 Label and Refrigerate
Make sure that you label the breastmilk packets with the date that it was extracted. Ideally, you ought to use up the older ones before the fresher ones to avoid wastage. However, you should also be aware of the milk’s shelf life, which we will discuss later, so that you can discard packets that are no good.
Arrange them in your freezer so that the older ones are more easily accessible than the newer ones.
3 Clean the Pump
After using the pump, make sure to thoroughly clean and dry it afterwards. This is because any milk that remains on the pump is an attractive breeding ground for microorganisms. After all, it does contain plenty of nutrients that even bacteria would love the opportunity to feast on. It’s important not to delay cleaning your pump.
If you have a dishwasher available, you can place the non-machine parts of your pump onto the top rack for cleaning.
2 Shelf Life
Your freshly-expressed breast milk will have a shelf life of about four to six hours at room temperature. If it sits around for more than this period of time, you must discard it. It can also be kept in the refrigerator for up to five days. If you want it to last very long, store it in the coldest portion of your freezer, where it will keep for six to twelve months.
Do note that once you’ve thawed out your frozen milk, it will only be good for about 24 hours. This is why it’s so convenient to freeze your milk in serving-sized packets as we’ve discussed earlier.
As with most things, learning how to pump breast milk may require a bit of practice. It might feel strange and awkward at first, but you will eventually feel more confident about it the more you do it.
The important thing to remember is that you shouldn’t be too uncomfortable during the process. While you’re in the middle of the pumping session, feel free to stop and perhaps adjust your manual pump or the level of your pumping machine if you begin to feel pain or discomfort.
One thing that might help is consulting with a local breastfeeding support group that can provide handy tips and demonstrations on the use of breast pumps. With time and patience, you’ll be pumping out that milk like a pro!