how to pump breastmilk?
New parents typically have many questions about pumping, including what type of breast pump to get, how long to pump for, and how much expressed milk should go into each bottle. This post will answer all of these questions, as well as providing a comprehensive guide to introducing pumping into your feeding routine.
People have many reasons for pumping, including:
- Separation from their baby. If you are apart from your baby for any reason and want to keep your milk supply up and feed your baby breast milk.
- Baby is unable to latch or breastfeed
- Breast issues:
- Engorgement. Sometimes in the early days of breastfeeding, you may find yourself so engorged the baby has a hard time latching. In this case, a very short pumping session, just to relieve the pressure in the breasts and soften the tissue enough for your baby to latch on may be helpful. Hand expression, in this case, may be preferred.
- Shallow or flat nipples. Some people find that pumping for a moment before latching helps a shallow or flat nipple protrude more in order to make latching easier for the baby.
4) Milk supply issues:
- If the baby is not gaining enough weight or peeing or pooping enough according to your pediatrician, breast pumping may be in order to increase the amount of stimulation to your breasts and increase your milk supply.
5) If you don’t want to breastfeed/chestfeed but you do want your baby to drink breast milk.
How to get ready for pumping:
Before your baby is born, you’re going to want to decide what type of breast pump to buy. Most insurance covers a double electric breast pump, but you’ll have to decide whether you want a Double Electric like Spectra, a Hands-Free Wireless like the Elvie, or a Manual Handpump like the Haakaa or Philips Avent Manual Pump. (We’ll get into how you can make this decision below.) There’s also the possibility that you may need a Hospital Grade Double Electric Pump which can be rented if it’s determined you need a stronger breast pump.
Remember, you can also express milk manually using your hands. Placing your thumb above your nipple and your 2nd and 3rd fingers below your nipple, begin by pressing firmly into your chest wall. Then slide your thumb and fingers forward toward your nipple. Repeat.
Whatever pump you select, you’re going to want to ensure that the flanges (aka the plastic funnel-shaped pieces that your nipples fit into) are the right size. You won’t really know until you have the baby and see what your new breast size is, but if you are pregnant and the funnel part is already rubbing against your nipple, you will want to size up.
If you plan to pump a lot, you’ll want a bra that lets you just slip the breast pump parts right in.
When should you start pumping?
The best time to start pumping is about 4-6 weeks after the baby is born, unless you are planning to exclusively pump or if you are having latching or supply issues early on. (In this case we highly recommend that you work with a lactation consultant who can address these issues and develop a pumping plan specific to your situation.)
Due to the fact that breast pumps are now mostly covered by insurance, most people now have a breast pump waiting at home for them when the baby is born. Unfortunately this has led to an expectation that pumping should start right when the baby is born. If you are pumping to build a stash of milk for your baby when you go back to work, begin pumping 3-4 weeks before your start date.
Why should I wait to begin pumping?
Since milk supply is driven by milk removal (either through breastfeeding or manual removal through pumping), if you are exclusively breastfeeding early on, you run the risk of shifting yourself into overproduction of breast milk, which can lead to plugged ducts and mastitis. We want to allow the baby to drive milk production in the first 2-6 weeks, so that your body can produce exactly what your baby needs.
How should I start pumping?
In order to build up your milk supply without overproducing, start slowly. Try adding in one breast pumping session per day to start. The best time to pump is in the morning after your first feed, as most people produce the most breast milk overnight. Note: You may not produce a lot of milk the first few times you pump. This is because at the moment you are producing exactly what your baby needs, so there’s barely anymore in there. With an extra pump each day, you should gradually begin to produce more breast milk over time.
How often should I pump and what pump should I use?
As with all baby things, it depends.
For exclusive pumpers: Pump as frequently as the baby feeds, which is every 1-3 hours in the very early days and more like every 2-3 hours as the baby grows. You’ll definitely want a double electric breastpump, possibly a hospital grade pump in the early days.
- Remember in the first 1-3 days you’ll be pumping colostrum in tiny amounts— just enough to coat a spoon. It can take at least 3-5 for your full flowing breast milk to come in.
For people who sometimes skip a breastfeeding session and are pumping to give an occasional bottle: Pump as many times per day as the baby is getting a bottle and pump around the same time your baby would have breastfed. Pumping replaces the time you would have breastfed and keeps stimulation equivalent. If you just give a bottle very occasionally, you may prefer a manual handpump or you might even prefer to use manual milk expression techniques with your hands.
For people who need to increase their milk supply: Ideally you’ll be working with a lactation consultant to create a plan. You’ll need to pump more than you are right now to see an increase in milk supply, and you’ll want to pump about 2 minutes after the last drop of milk. You’ll probably want a double electric pump.
For people building supply to go back to work: You’ll want to pump an additional 1-2 times per day, to build up a stash of breast milk. You’ll definitely want a double electric pump.
How long should I pump for?
As a general rule, a pumping session should last about 15-20 min, but like all things, pumping time depends on your situation. If you are trying to build your milk supply, you’ll want to pump for about 2-5 minutes past the point where you are producing milk.
How much should I be pumping out?
It depends on why you’re pumping. The average amount of breast milk people produce once they are at full supply (typically around 6 weeks post-delivery) is 25-35 ounces per 24 hours.
Getting ready for the first pumping session:
- Read your breast pump guide or watch a how-to video on setting up your breast pump.
- Sanitize your breast pump parts for the first time.
- Think about the best time to pump for you. For most people it’s in the morning, since breast milk tends to increase overnight.
How to pump with an electric breast pump:
- Set up your pump parts.
- Find a comfortable way to sit.
- If you’re not with your baby, watch a video or look at a picture of your babe, or think about breastfeeding. Some people like to massage their breasts right before or during pumping to help the milk flow.
- Start with the stimulation phase. Once your milk starts to drip out, press the button to switch to the expression phase.
- If you don’t see any milk coming out within the first 1-2 minutes, most pumps switch on their own to the expression phase.
Note: Breast pumping should never be painful. If it is, consider flange size, try a lubricant, or talk to a lactation consultant.
As for storing this liquid gold? Not to worry, we have more tips for you on how to do it right here.
Pumping is often a necessity for many new parents so we hope that our pumping expert tips on gave you the confidence to tackle this like a pro. Need more help? Reach out to boober to find your same-day lactation consultant to help you troubleshoot your issues. You don’t have to do this alone!
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