Breastfeeding: everything you need to know about pumping
By pumping and storing your breast milk, your baby can still receive all of its wonderful benefits when you cannot be there.
Even though you are breast feeding, there will probably be times when you need to be away from your baby. You can continue to provide your little one with your milk by expressing and storing it for them to drink from a bottle.
How does pumping work?
Electric or manual pumps create suction to pull and release your nipple and extract milk from your breast, much like a baby does.
The best pump for you will depend on your personal situation and preference. Some choices include:
- Hospital grade pump – these can be hired from hospital or purchased, with newer brands making them more affordable. They are best for use under 6 weeks or for exclusively pumping as they are stronger than a standard double/single electric pump.
- Double/single electric pump – with a double electric pump you can express from both breasts at the same time, which sends signals to the brain to increase your output, making the process quicker and more efficient. Best used over 6-8 weeks once your supply has fully established.
- Manual pump – smaller, more portable and less expensive, but more time consuming as you will need to manually express from each breast
When to start pumping
Try to avoid expressing for the first four to six weeks of breast feeding, unless you will be returning to work straight away. This is an important time for establishing supply and getting in tune with your baby’s needs.
How often to pump
Try to pump at your baby’s normal feeding times to help keep your milk production on track. If this isn’t possible, then express the same number of feeds to maintain your supply. A breast feeding diary or app can help, so you know how many feeds to express to keep your body in sync with your baby.
Try to fit in an extra pumping session in the morning when your breasts are fullest. Wait 15 to 30 minutes after your baby’s first feed for the day – this short break signals the start of a new feeding session, causing a spike in oxytocin that helps increase your supply.
How to pump like a pro
Read your breast pump manual, make sure you understand how to assemble and clean all its components, and see that it fits correctly.
It’s important that you can relax, so make sure you have somewhere comfortable and private to pump. Start by massaging your breasts from the collarbone and under the armpit to the nipple. Looking at a photo of your baby can help encourage letdown.
Don’t pump for longer than 20 minutes as pressure can start to build up in the ducts and cause pain, clogs and potential damage. If you are experiencing an over-supply, it’s best not to pump after feeds to avoid stimulating extra milk production.
And remember, help is always available. Look to your midwife, lactation consultant and family members, such as your partner, for support. Our Nutricia Careline team of experts can also help with advice about expressing and storing breast milk.