How to Pump Breastmilk
Pumping breastmilk is a concern for many mothers. There are several reasons why it’s important to learn how to pump breastmilk, including the need to return to work at the end of maternity leave.
So how do I pump? Let’s begin by talking about when to start. Determining when to start pumping is dependent on your current and future needs. A primary example is the need to return to work. If breastfeeding the baby is going well and you are not encountering issues, then pumping can wait a few weeks. I love to have new moms just enjoy their babies and breastfeeding. I instruct new moms to ignore the tug of the world around them, ignore the clock, and instead gaze at their new baby with love while relaxing and snuggling for the first few weeks.
Ideally, with no breastfeeding issues, mom’s should start pumping about 3 to 4 weeks prior to returning to work. I recommend a quality double electric breast pump and properly fitted flanges (see my post – What The Breast Pump—Which Breast Pump Pumps Breast Milk Best). Double pumping should be done every day for about 10 to 15 minutes after one or two morning breastfeeding sessions. If your baby is not immunocompromised, then you can store your pump parts in the refrigerator in between pumping sessions. No need to clean your pump parts every single time you pump. Breastmilk is full of white blood cells and the refrigerator will keep bacteria from growing. Just clean your parts once in the morning and once at night. This is a timesaver at work also.
What to Expect in the First Few Days and Weeks
The first few days to weeks of breast milk pumping, after you breastfeed, will most likely not produce the volumes of milk a mother might expect. Don’t panic about your milk production. These breast milk pumping sessions are telling your brain and body to make more. Match your pumping sessions with a particular song—classical music works best. This establishes a connection within your brain that it is time to “let down” the milk. Of course, you may not want to choose your favorite song as you don’t want to start leaking when you hear it play over the radio!
How Breast Pumps Work & Tips to Help Milk “Let Down”
Even with the best electric pumps on the market—breast milk pumps only suck. This means the pump only creates suction on the breast tissue but does not compress the breast like a baby does. It takes time to get use to the action of a pump and your body coordinating the “let down” of milk flow. This is why it’s important to begin pumping a few weeks prior to returning to work. Additionally, you want to build up a stash of breast milk in your freezer for days where stress or other factors decreases your pump output. That’s why adding a routine classical song, pictures of your baby, and the smell of your baby’s clothes can stop stress hormones from blocking you from a good breast milk pumping session.
Breast Pumping Tips 1-2 Weeks Before Returning to Work
As the weeks fly by and you are about 1 or 2 weeks from returning to work, you will want to start pumping more often to increase your milk volume, rather than just in the morning. You want to start adding in pumping sessions that are more closely related to when you will be pumping at work—if you know that information ahead of time. You will also want to increase the duration of pumping to fifteen to twenty minutes per session. This is about the length of time you’ll need to pump at work to maintain your breast milk supply and freezer stash.
How Much Milk is the Average Woman Able to Pump?
Most women pump only about an ounce and half to two ounces per pumping session. A newborn, after six days of life, only needs two ounces of breastmilk per feeding session, every two to three hours, to be nourished. Though in our big latte and big burger society we think that our babies should be consuming far more calories than that. And many bottle-fed infants will far exceed this amount of fluid intake. That doesn’t mean they need it.
Therefore, it is critical that anyone caring for your baby understand how to pace bottle feed your newborn baby. The impact to an infant with large intake at a single session is a stretched-out stomach and a pre-programmed brain that wants larger volumes of breast milk than nutritionally needed in the first few months of life. You can find my video on paced bottle feeding here—Paced Bottle Feeding: Feeding Your Infant In A Healthy Way.
How to Properly Store Breastmilk
Now that you are pumping your breastmilk, let’s talk about how you should store it. Breast milk bags are all the rage when it comes to storing breastmilk. There are many types of breast milk storage bags on the market. It is critical to only store breast milk in proper bags marked for breast milk. After working so hard to pump your breastmilk, you don’t want to waste it by having it spill or become tainted. Try laying the bags in a clean shoe box in the freezer and freeze flat so they can be stacked for an easy storage method.
Your baby’s intake will change over time – you can find an intake guideline here. Even though the amount of breastmilk your baby will drink at each feeding will change over time, I recommend pumping and storing your breast milk in 2-3 ounce increments. It is easier to thaw smaller amounts and waste less precious breastmilk. It’s a good idea to have a few one ounce bags for emergencies such as an appointment that ran long, a bad commute, or other unforeseen issues. Having this reserve available for your child-care helper could be the difference between holding a really fussy baby or a happy baby ready for more milk when you arrive. A small snack of an ounce of breast milk can hold baby off till you arrive and are able to nurse.
Low Milk Supply
Now that you have an idea of when to start breast milk pumping, and what to send to your caregiver, you might be worried about not being able to make enough milk for your baby’s needs. Yes it can happen—the dreaded low milk supply. For more information about low milk supply, read—Low Milk Supply: How to Increase Breast Milk.
Everybody’s breastfeeding relationship is unique. While we give a standard to gauge things by, we are not saying you have to fit in this box. That is why well-trained health professionals known as lactation consultants (IBCLC’s) are critical.
Disclaimer: Pregnancy by Design’s information is not a substitute for professional medical advice or treatment. Always ask your healthcare provider about any health concerns you may have.
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