As a Lactation Consultant I get inundated with questions about pumping. Everyone I speak to has questions about when and how to pump. I want share some basics on using a breast pump. Let's talk about efficient milk removal. The best method to remove milk is an effectively breastfeeding baby. They can remove twice the amount of milk that an electric pump can! This reminds us that what we can pump is not necessarily the same as what the baby gets. The next best method is Hand Expression. Compressing the ducts between our fingers is very effective. Then there are hand pumps and multiple types of electric pumps. An electric pump is not so good at removing that thick milk (Colostrum) in the first few days. Do not be discouraged. You will see results usually starting by day four post delivery.
The most powerful pumps are the multi-user pumps that are often available for rent at hospitals and pharmacies. These pumps cannot transfer any infection between users. One model is the Medela Symphony. This pump is recommended in the first month after delivery in certain circumstances: history of low milk supply or significant risk factors for low supply, separation from the baby (baby is in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit), twin delivery, and a baby who is not nursing effectively. (This list is not exhaustive). This type of pump has a more powerful motor and is intended to help initiate a milk supply.
Commercially available pumps are intended to maintain a supply that is already established. The list of these pumps is long. Some examples include the Spectra, Medela pump in style, Ameda, etc. Your insurance company has to provide you with a new double electric breast pump with every pregnancy. These type of pumps are not rated as multi-user in general and should not be shared. There is a chance of infection between users. Also their motor is designed to last through regular use for approximately a year. It is possible that using it a few years later with a new baby will not produce the same results. The motor can be worn out. This is why insurance provides a new pump with each baby!
On to the actual pumping! Pumping is hard! Let's be honest. It's not fun. It's mechanical and sometimes our bodies don't respond the same way to a pump as they do to our adorable baby. The let down is partially psychological. Some techniques that can help are: looking at a video/pictures of your baby while you pump, smelling clothing that your baby was wearing, covering the collection bottles with a blanket, and distracting yourself with a fun activity (chatting on phone, TV, social media). Don't watch the milk drop into the bottle! Remember that sometimes trying a different brand pump can make a big difference for some women. If you are having a challenge with your milk supply, a consult with a Lactation Consultant is the best way to get back on track.
The size of the flanges or cups that go on your breasts is very important. If they are too small or too big, this can negatively impact milk supply and cause pain and damage to your nipples and/or breasts. It is also important that pumping never hurt. Do not turn the suction pressure up higher to attempt to get more milk. Pain inhibits the letdown!
The amount and times to pump vary significantly depending on your individual situation. Remember to wash your pump parts every time with soap and water. Sanitizing the parts once every 24 hours in the first 2 months of the your baby's life is also recommended. This can be accomplished with your dishwasher, microwave steam bags or a quick boil.
Storage guidelines for breast milk:
(In addition, if your baby is premature or has health challenges, it is recommended to refrigerate your milk directly after pumping)
There are many different ways and reasons to use a breast pump. Your Lactation Consultant can advise you on the best course of action for your particular situation. You can be successful pumping with the right knowledge!