Pumping breast milk

All you really need to know about pumping breast milk

Time and again, you must have heard how mother’s milk has no substitute for a newborn. However, getting used to frequent breastfeeding and continuing with it might not be easy for all mothers. For instance, until your little one becomes a month old, he might have to be breastfed eight to twelve times in a day. The bonus is that, your mammary glands will get stimulated with every round of nursing, making future feeds a cakewalk. This may progress to seven or nine times a day by two months. After that, breastfeeding-on-demand will be the norm, with usually a 2-hour interval between each feed.

Now, for working women, who need to get back to their official responsibilities quickly, frequent breastfeeding can be a challenge. This is where breast pumps come to your rescue!

What are breast pumps?

Breast pumps are equipment used to create external pressure and suction over the breasts, to enable the ejection of breast milk. Breast pumps can be manual or electric. Manual ones allow occasional pumping but require effort, unlike electric ones that may even allow simultaneous pumping of both breasts.

However, electric breast pumps might get slightly noisy, particularly while pumping at a workplace or when your baby is asleep. Some breast pumps are battery operated and some have suction strengths that can be regulated too. Initial feeding and your gradual transit to pumping will give you a hint about how much milk your baby needs for each feed.

Start off with a thorough hand wash and sterilize the pumping and storage equipment. Your first hack to storing milk is to split the pumped milk into nearly the same quantities demanded by your baby, to avoid wastage.

How to store breast milk after pumping?

Plastic or glass feeding bottles are best suited for this. Labelling them with date and time can help you use the feeds sequentially. Disposable plastics are not recommended. You may wonder how to store breast milk in bags. Sterilized sealable bags are also a great alternative. Bags must be kept constantly in contact with ice packs and repetitive opening and closing must be avoided. Remove any extra air from bags before sealing.

Breast milk can stay good at room temperature for about six hours. However, freezing or at least refrigerating breast milk is advised. Usually, breast milk can be stored up to a day in coolers or close to three to five days in a refrigerator.

Can you freeze breast milk?

Well, freezing has shown to help store pumped milk for up to six months! The method preserves most nutrients appreciably too. Always remember to leave an inch space while filling the container to allow the milk to expand after freezing.

Always remember to store in small batches. It avoids on-and-off opening and tampering with storage equipment and thus reduces contamination. In case of spoilage, only a small quantity will go waste this way.

How to warm breast milk?

Refrigerated bags or containers must be placed in warm water to help restore temperatures closer to room temperatures. Microwaving and heating over direct flame can cause scalding, and some studies suggest that these methods might incur harmful effects of radiation.

Frozen breast milk must be thawed by placing the container in warm water for a while. This definitely calls for some pre-planning. By the way, thawed milk can sometimes appear or taste a little soapy. However, know that it’s absolutely safe to consume.

For how long can you leave out refrigerated containers at room temperature?

Once the room temperature is achieved, breast milk must be fed within a maximum of two to three hours.

How long is warmed breast milk good for consumption?

Warmed breast milk should be consumed by your baby within 24 hours.

Another question that might often pop up in your head is what to do with the unfinished milk. Since your baby’s preferred quantity might change every time and over months, milk may often end up being unfinished. Consuming that milk again within one or two hours after keeping it at room temperature is good enough. However, re-refrigeration or re-thawing is a bad idea as it can increase the chances of bacterial contamination.

Effects of storing breast milk

Storage of breast milk may lead to colour changes too. It might appear yellowish or even brownish due to the fat layer settling on the top surface. So, shaking the milk well before giving it to your young one is essential. Also, ensure that the milk doesn’t smell or taste sour.

When to start pumping?

Some mothers might need to start pumping too early, owing to the need to stimulate breasts more, or to return to work sooner, or in case the baby’s or the mother’s health is not conducive for natural feeding. Unless you don’t have any choice, don’t start pumping too early. This way, babies get accustomed to bottles too soon. And needless to mention, breastfeeding is your opportunity to strike that precious bond with your offspring that nothing else can replace. Prolong it as much as possible before you make breast pumps your choice.

Apart from pumps, manual stimulation of breasts can also stimulate better milk production. Studies also recommend listening to calm music, relaxing, and using hot compresses, for improved milk production.

Do breast pumps come with any disadvantages?

Though pumps limit your mom-and-baby bonding time, if you have started this method after you have breastfed for a reasonably long time, then it shouldn’t be much of a concern.

Some pumps need trial and error before they can function efficiently. They may be uncomfortable to operate and may lead to insufficient expression of breast milk too. so, you might have to invest in different equipment to see which one suits you best. Breasts can sometimes turn sore due to the suction forces. In such cases, you might want to go for manual stimulation of breasts.

Lastly, planning the feeds, storing the breast milk smartly and being careful while feeding the same to your baby are things that you need to master, if you go the breast pump way. So, be a little patient and you will soon get used to a comfortable pumping routine.