Just like the natural act of breastfeeding comes with a learning curve, pumping also takes some getting used to. The first step in pumping is choosing the right pump for you. There are manual and electric pumps, and all electric pumps have different features that may appeal to you. Take some time to learn about your options and features of different pumps to find the best fit for your needs. In addition to finding a pump, you will need the appropriate accessories including storage containers for milk and flanges that fit your breast correctly. An improper fitting flange may cause irritation and swelling of the nipple and may also result in ineffective pumping. With a proper fitting flange, there should be an airtight seal and your nipples should not rub against the sides of the flange. When you have found a suitable pump and accessories, take some time to read the instruction manual to learn about your machine. While pumps may look fairly straightforward, many have a variety of functions that may not be obvious. You might even find out your pump has a handy dandy night light!
To start your session, find a comfortable place to pump and make sure you have everything you will need to set up for your session. This may include accessories, milk storage bags, snacks, water (stay hydrated!), and entertainment. Make sure your pump is plugged in or fully charged. Lastly, make sure your hands are washed directly before starting your pumping session. Starting your session by gently massaging your breasts will encourage let down. Start your pump on the massage/ let-down function (high speed, low suction) and once you experience let-down you can change the speed and suction to a comfortable level.
When and how often you pump will depend on your breastfeeding situation (are you exclusively pumping? Back to work full-time/part-time? etc.... ) Full production/optimal output is approximately 25-30 oz per day. Keep this in mind when considering your pumping needs. Typically if you are exclusively pumping, you will want to aim for having a pumping session 8-10 times within a 24 hours period, but in order to maintain your supply be sure to avoid letting long periods of time pass (5 hours or more) between pumping sessions. Length of pumping sessions will also vary, but once the optimal output is reached, a 15-20 minute double-pumping session should be sufficient. Continue to pump for a few minutes after you stop producing milk to make sure you have emptied the breasts. You may also hand express after using your pump to make sure your breasts have been completely emptied. Pump parts and accessories can be cleaned with warm soapy water and left to air dry.
Now that you’ve pumped, it’s time to store your milk. You can collect your milk in a container made specifically for human breastmilk storage. Plastic bottles should be BPA free. Bags are a good option for saving space. Make sure you label your bags with the time, date, amount, and your baby’s name. Here are guidelines for breastmilk storage times:
Room temperature (66 to 77 F): 4-8 hours
Insulated cooler bag (5 to 39 F): 24 hours
Refrigerator (39 F): 3-8 days
Freezer compartment of refrigerator (5 F): 2 weeks
Freezer compartment of refrigerator with separate doors (0 F): 3-6 months
Deep freezer (-4 F): 6-12 months
Always store milk in the back of the refrigerator and freezer where it is coolest, never in the door, to avoid spoilage and use the oldest milk first. Your frozen milk can be thawed by being left in the refrigerator overnight or placed in a container with warm water or under warm running water. NEVER warm your milk in the microwave. This can create hot spots that could burn your baby.
So now that you know the basics about pumping you may still be wondering, “How do I know what pump is right for me?” As a Partner with Military Mommies, I offer FREE breast pump consultations to Tricare covered families. We carry top of the line brands including Spectra, Medela, Motif, Ameda, Unimom, Lansinoh, and Ardo. During our consultation, you will learn about all of our products and their features. I would love to help you select and order a breast pump that suits your needs. Already know what you want? Contact me and we can get your breast pump ordered and shipped directly to your door!