Read this if you are planning to use a breast pump
When all goes well, breastfeeding can be a simple and wonderful experience for a mother and her baby. You won’t need bowls, spoons, bottles or tools of any kind for this. But, sometimes, a mother might need a little extra help. For example, a baby might be delivered prematurely and might need to stay in the NICU for a few days. Or, a few months post delivery, the mother might have to go back to her responsibilities at the workplace. In such cases, she will need to express her breast milk into a bottle that can be later fed to the baby. This is when you need a breast pump.
Types of breast pumps
Not all breast pumps are the same. They can be broadly classified into manual pumps and electric pumps. As the category names suggest, manual pumps rely on manual stimulation of the breasts for pumping the milk, while electric pumps work without any human intervention. Most electric pumps need to be plugged into a socket, but a few might work with batteries as well. Manual pumps are slower than electric pumps but they are cheaper and quieter. And though they lose points for pricing, electric pumps are better in terms of convenience and comfort.
Lactating mothers can also choose between single and double pumps. The difference between these pumps is based on their ability to pump milk from one breast or both breasts, at a time. Double breast pumps are usually more expensive and needed only if the mother and baby will be away from each other for long stretches. Manual pumps are usually designed as single pumps.
How to choose a breast pump?
There are a number of factors you should consider when you choose a breast pump. This includes your budget, the frequency with which you will need to express milk, the time you will have available to pump milk, etc. For example, mothers who are going back to work may not have much time to express milk and their babies may be fed more often from a bottle than directly from the breast. In such cases, you will need a pump that works fast and can pump milk from both breasts simultaneously. On the other hand, stay-at-home moms who need a breast pump only in case of emergencies can choose a manual model or a single electric pump.
Breast pumps and milk production
When mother and baby are separated for long periods of time, breast milk production might become uneven. However, using a breast pump to regularly express breast milk can help maintain and even increase the breast milk supply. This pumping will help drain milk from the breasts completely, and stimulate them into producing more milk.
Accessories you need with the pump
Breastfeeding and expressing milk can become made simpler and comfortable with tools and accessories like nipple cream, nipple shields, nursing pads and nursing covers.
How long should you pump breast milk?
The frequency and length of time you need to pump for, varies from one mother to another. If you are away from your baby for long durations, you may want to express milk once every 3 to 5 hours. If you’re using a double pump, this interval might be increased. To increase breast milk production, mothers are usually advised to pump a minimum of 8 -10 times within 24 hours. To completely drain the breasts, it may be beneficial to use the pump immediately after a feeding session. However, do not focus on the amount of milk pumped per session. Some mothers take 2-3 sessions to fill a bottle while others can fill several bottles in a single session.
Tips to use a breast pump
There are many questions a lactating mother might have when she considers using a breast pump. When to start pumping breast milk? How much milk to pump? When is it too early to pump breast milk? Your doctor or a lactation assistant might be able to help you find the answers to these questions. However, here are a few tips that can help.
- Familiarize yourself with how the pump works before you start using it.
- Ensure a good fit with the breast shield tunnel around the nipple.
- Think of your baby while you pump milk to stimulate the let-down reflex.
- Clean all parts of the pump and the breast shield after each use.
- Increase the pumping speed to produce more milk.
- When working with a single, manual pump, switch between breasts to improve milk flow.
Last but not the least; mothers who use pumps also need to know how to store breast milk. Breast milk should be stored in sterilized storage bags or bottles. It must always be labelled and dated. Expressed breast milk can be stored for up to 8 days at a temperature of 4°C or lower. It can be kept frozen for up to 6 months. Once defrosted, the expressed milk must be used immediately.