Pumping Breast Milk

Most mothers who choose to pump their breast milk do so for the combined reason of keeping their milk supply despite being apart from their child for part of the day (or longer) and to store milk for their baby for when they are not there.

There are different kinds of breast pumps and using one can be confusing at first. Ideally you should try practicing using the breast pump for several weeks before you will need the expressed milk and you should also make sure that you have been breastfeeding for a while before you give your child a bottle of pumped milk. This article explains how you should pump breast milk both by hand and by using an electric pump.

Benefits of Pumping Breast Milk

In addition to pumping breast milk for when you are away from home, it is also useful for if you are at home. It allows you to get some rest and not be the only one capable of responding to your child’s hunger. If your partner does some of the feeding using your pumped milk in a bottle, this is also a great bonding opportunity for them.

Using a breast pump is also an excellent way to boost your milk supply by stimulating production. It can also help relieve pressure and pain from engorged breasts and help a baby who is premature or unable to latch onto your breasts. Keep in mind, however, that if you are engorged and pump too much, it can make the problem worse.

Pumping breast milk can also help you in case you have to start taking a medication that could affect your child for some reason or if for some reason you are hospitalized or otherwise unable to breastfeed during the day. In either case, you will need a supply of expressed milk on hand so your baby can still get nourishment.

How to Pump Breast Milk

1. Pump By Hand

Benefits: Most women who choose to express milk by hand only do so every once in a while because the process can be much slower than using a pump. In addition to helping store milk, expressing milk by hand can help you soothe plugged or engorged ducts.

How to Pump: Before you start pumping your breast milk by hand, always wash your hands. Some women like to put a warm towel on their breasts or give them a massage to help. When you are ready to start, sit up in your chair and then lean forward. Then put your index finger and thumb around your breast (around an inch behind your areola). Bring your fingers back towards the chest wall and then move them gently together. While doing so, be sure to compress by the areola instead of the nipple and stick to a rolling motion. When you have the right motion and spot, you will squirt milk. As you milk the breasts, rotate your fingers so they go around your areola.

2. Use an Electric Pump

Benefits: Most women who pump their breast milk use an electric (or manual) pump as they are easy to use and fairly quick when compared to doing so by hand.

How to Pump: When using an electric pump, you will place the breast shield (flange) on your nipple and then turn on the machine which will suction your milk into the container that is attached. A manual pump will use a flange as well but instead of automatically expressing the milk, you will use a plunger or squeeze mechanism with your hand. To pump both breasts with an electric pump is usually about 10 to 15 minutes while it could be 45 minutes using a hand pump.

When you have a good breast pump it won’t cause you any pain as it will mimic the sucking your baby would do. For the best results, make sure the flanges are the right size and positioned correctly. You can also find hands-free pumping bras that allow you to do something with your hands while the bra holds the flanges in place.

To produce and deliver the most milk, you should be relaxed and calm. When you start the automatic pump you will feel a tug and because of this, you should always start with the suction at the lowest level then increase it if necessary. Although it may feel weird, it shouldn’t hurt and you should always clean the pump afterwards.

Watch a video on how to pump breast milk:

Tips for Better Pumping Breast Milk

  • Try to massage your breasts for a few minutes before pumping your milk. Begin by your armpits using your fingertips and making small circles in one area. Move your hand a little bit and repeat the process, working your way around your entire breast moving towards your areolas with a spiral pattern. At the end, do several long strokes going from your chest wall to your areola. You can also try a breast massage if your milk flow decreases while pumping.
  • Have a few cups of water before you pump.
  • Have things nearby that remind you of your baby, such as a picture, blanket or piece of clothing.
  • You should try to decrease distractions while pumping breast milk and a good option is to listen to music or relaxing sounds with headphones.
  • If your nipples feel sore while pumping, lower the suction setting. You could also try using a different type of pump and should make sure that your nipple isn’t rubbing on the flange when you pump.
  • After you pump, your nipples may be sore so you can try applying a small quantity of any emollient (like Lansinoh for Breastfeeding Mothers). To apply this, soften it using your fingers and then pat it on gently.
  • You should pump as frequently as your baby will nurse which should be about every three hours. If you want to increase your milk production, pump more often as more frequent expressions stimulate the milk production better than expressing for longer.
  • You can also add a pumping session to the early morning as you will have the largest amount of milk then.
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