Pumping Breastmilk and What You Need To Know

By Amy Peterson, IBCLC

This article made possible by the generous support of Earth Mama Angel Baby.

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Not every mom needs to pump. When baby is with mom for feedings and transferring milk effectively, there is no need to pump. But there are times when pumping breastmilk is important:

  •      Baby needs more milk (a supplement for one or more feeds)
  •      Mom wants to increase her supply
  •      Mom and baby are apart for feedings, such as when mom is at work or school
  •      Mom wants to have someone else participate in feedings
  •      Anytime mom will miss a feeding

In these circumstances, using a breast pump helps maintain or increase the milk supply for future feedings, and the pumped milk offers the perfect food for baby. This article touches on choosing between the different types of breast pumps, general pumping guidelines, and tips for increasing milk supply if necessary.

When possible, choose a pump that meets your unique situation. If you’ll only miss a feed or two each week, a manual pump or single electric is plenty. If you need to pump for several feedings a day, a high quality, double electric pump is a better choice.  If your baby is hospitalized or you need to dedicate time to increasing your supply, a hospital grade/rental pump is the best choice.

You can get a breast pump from many different places: box stores (Babies ‘R Us, Target, WalMart, etc.), online, a friend, thrift store, or possibly through your insurance company. Buying a used breast pump or borrowing a pump is usually not recommended. Most brands are considered single user items. These pumps do not control for the transfer of bacteria or germs between the pump motor and the milk, putting the baby’s health at risk. If you know the pump brand has a closed system, you could consider purchasing a new collection kit with tubing. Even so, you may not know if the pump is working less effectively than when purchased new, potentially putting your supply at risk.

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It is also important to note that not all women respond well to pumps and not all pumps work equally well for every lactating individual. This is why we have options. There are various contributing aspects that may impact how well a pump performs such as flange size, suction strength, type of suction, etc. If a pump is not working well for you it is possible that another would. Some breasts prefer one pump over another and some breasts prefer manual expression.

Most breast pumps have two settings. One button controls the vacuum, and the other button controls how fast the pump cycles (sucks). These settings let you fine tune the pump to mimic your baby’s suction and rhythm. For maximum milk production, use the highest comfortable suction. Use a fast cycling rate until your milk flows, then adjust to your comfort level; this mimics how your baby sucks before and after a let-down. A few brands of breast pumps have a built in feature that begins with fast cycling and adjusts slower. Some moms find they have better milk flow when they reset the button and continue with fast cycling.

Here are some general pumping guidelines to get you started:

  •      Pump for any feeding you will miss. Your milk supply is based on supply and demand, and pumping for each missed feeding tells your body to keep producing milk during that time.
  •      Pump the amount of milk your baby needs.  For example, if your baby takes 3 ounces of milk, pump 3 ounces total (1 ½ ounces from each breast).  If you pump what you need in 4 minutes—you can stop pumping.
  •      Pump between feedings to build a bottle. You can combine the milk from several pumping sessions to make a larger bottle of milk.
  •      Pump at night or in the early morning hours when your supply is highest.
  •      A gentle breast massage routine, called hands-on pumping, has been proven effective in increasing the amount of milk a mom can pump. Check it out here.

For moms who are not able to pump enough milk and who want to increase their supply, there are additional pumping tips:

  •      Pump until your milk stops flowing, and then pump two more minutes. This limited extra pumping is enough to tell your breasts to make more.
  •      Pump more often. Leave your pump set up (where your toddler can’t reach it!). Pump for 5-10 minutes once or twice an hour.
  •      Use the hands-on pumping technique listed here and above.
  •      Know that pumping alone may not increase your milk supply. Work with a breastfeeding helper who is knowledgeable about other targeted methods to boost supply.
  •      While you work on increasing your milk supply, feed your baby. You can combine your breastmilk with donor milk or formula to be sure your baby is getting enough. Some moms choose to feed breastmilk separate from formula to avoid wasting any breastmilk if baby doesn’t finish the bottle. As long as your guestimate is cautious, it is safe to mix; the milks will mix in baby’s belly anyway.

While pumping is an important aspect for many families in reaching their breastfeeding goals, how much is pumped is not a reliable sign of milk production. As with most areas of parenting, take your cues from your baby. When baby is growing well and reaching milestones within range then how much you pump doesn’t need to be a concern. If you see signs of dehydration or poor weight gain, speak with your child’s healthcare provider.

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Happy pumping mamas! You’ve totally got this and we’ve teamed up with Earth Mama Angel Baby to support you in your pumping journey with a giveaway of Earth Mama Angel Baby’s Milk-to-Go kit for Leakies in the USA. A $40 retail value, this kit includes:

One pair of Booby Tubes® (one pair) for cold or warm therapeutic use, 1 box of Organic Milkmaid Tea (16 tea bags) a fragrant comforting blend that supports healthy breast milk production, safe Natural Nipple Butter (1 fl. oz.), Happy Mama Body Wash (1.67 fl. oz.), one Eco-friendly Reusable Insulated Bag, and a tasty recipe for Organic Milkmaid French Vanilla Chai.

Use the widget below to be entered!

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Amy Peterson is a mom of 4, IBCLC, Early Intervention coordinator, and retired LLL Leader. She works alongside a speech-language pathologist, and together they co-authored Balancing Breast and Bottle: Reaching Your Breastfeeding Goals. They have also written a series of tear-of sheets available through Noodle Soup: Introducing a bottle to your full-term breastfed baby, Pumping for your breastfed baby, Pacifiers and the breastfed baby, and Bottle pacing for the young breastfed baby. Amy’s passion is helping others find fulfillment and confidence in parenting, regardless of feeding method. Visit Amy’s website at breastandbottlefeeding.com.

 

 

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Comments

  1. Jaimee Bree says:

    My pump says “mommy” I swear! It’s so weird!

  2. Britany St. Clair says:

    A great, straight forward article. I hope it helps many pumping mommas

  3. Kathryn Swift says:

    Keep going, keep going, keep going

  4. Good info!

  5. Ketrin Leka says:

    This is a great article especially for first time mom’s. It wasn’t until I had a second baby and received a different pump from my insurance that I realized I was using my pump wrong the first time. I struggled a lot pumping when I returned to work and could barely get enough milk yet I had a decent supply.

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