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Breast Pumps 101

10 tips for expressing and storing breast milk quickly and easily.

Establishing on-the-job Breaks

Federal law now requires most employees to provide a private place other than a bathroom for women to express breast milk for one year after the baby's birth. And 24 states have laws in effect about breastfeeding in the workplace. The protections don't require employers to compensate women for break time spent pumping, but they do have to allow women time to pump when necessary.

"It's much easier for working mothers to take the time they need to pump and ensure that they can continue to breastfeed and provide milk to their babies," West says.

If you know that you're going to continue giving your baby breast milk after you return to work, discuss this with your supervisor or a human resources representative a few weeks before your maternity leave ends. This will give them enough time to accommodate your needs.

"Talk to your employer to work out a schedule," says California-based pediatrician Tanya Remer Altmann, MD, author of Mommy Calls: Dr. Tanya Answers Parents' Top 101 Questions About Babies and Toddlers. "Ask for a private, clean room with a sink and a door that locks."

Getting Down to Business

At work, where you may be touching dirty computer keyboards, elevator buttons, and public bathroom door handles, it's essential to wash your hands before pumping.

Once you're ready for a pumping session, you'll need to trigger the let-down reflex to start your milk flowing. Every woman has her own method, but a few tactics are widely used:

"Relaxing is very important, so go to a quiet, comfortable place away from noise and other workers," says Toronto-based pediatrician Jack Newman, MD, coauthor of Breastfeeding Made Simple. "Looking at a picture of the baby or having a piece of clothing that smells of the baby can help. Compression of the breast can also get the milk flow going."

Other tricks that may work: applying a warm compress to the breast, listening to a recording of your baby crying, or shaking the breast before pumping.

How often you should pump depends on your supply and demand, as determined by your baby.

"Initially, a mom should pump during feeding times - such as every three hours - but as a baby gets older, a nursing mom can try to stretch the time between her pumping sessions," says Altmann, who notes the importance of listening to your body when it's time for another pumping session. "Waiting too long can sometimes cause discomfort, engorgement, and a decrease in your milk supply, as your body will make what it thinks your baby needs."

Doubling Up

You'll pump twice as much milk at a time with a double pump, but some people find it too difficult to attach both breasts to a pump simultaneously without accessories. Even if you can hold two breast flanges in place, you may need another hand to turn the pump on! And it may be more practical to use your hands to catch up on e-mails or flip through your files while pumping. You can purchase a hands-free breast-pump bra ($40) or get creative and make your own.

"Just cut a hole in the nipple area of an old sports bra to make a low-cost and very effective device to make it easier to pump hands-free," West says.

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