When you’re a mom who breastfeeds, there may be times you need to be away from your baby. That’s when a breast pump comes in handy! It lets you store milk your little one can drink later, and it signals your body to continue making milk at its current schedule.
Never pumped before? These tips will make it easier.
1. Shop around.
If you’re not going to pump often, you could learn to use only your hand to pump, or a hand-operated device. But if you’re going to pump regularly, you’ll want an automatic electric breast pump that’s convenient for you. Many women use a double pump, which works on both breasts at the same time.
Electric breast pumps are more expensive than other types. You could easily pay over $200 for a new one. Most health insurance policies cover some or all of the cost.
Don’t share yours or buy a used one. Even after it’s washed, bacteria may stay trapped inside and could harm both you and your baby.
Pumps are also generally available for rental from a hospital or from your lactation consultant, an expert who gives you breastfeeding advice and support. These devices are carefully sterilized before you get them but as earlier noted, it is always advised to have your own pump.
2. Practice at home.
It takes time to get comfortable using a breast pump, and many women don’t make much milk at first. So give yourself some time to adjust.
Start at home a week or two before you’ll need to be regularly pumping. If you do it right after your baby feeds or in between feedings, that will signal your body to make more milk.
3. Stick to your baby’s schedule.
Try to pump milk as often as you'd nurse your child at home. If that’s not possible, pump during morning, lunch, and afternoon breaks.
4. Dress for it.
Wear a dress, shirt, or cardigan that opens in the front. If you have to pump somewhere semi-public, like in your car, have a blanket or shawl with you to give yourself some privacy.
Some women use a hands-free pump. These may be useful if you’re working at a desk or computer, for example.
5. Make yourself comfortable.
Your nipple should fit comfortably in the middle of the breast shield or flange. Once you begin to pump, there should be a small amount of air around your nipple.
During the first 10-15 seconds, you may feel a bit uncomfortable as your nipples start to stretch. Then as your milk starts to flow, you may feel a tingling “pins and needles” sensation.
But pumping shouldn’t hurt. If it does and you’re using an electric pump, lower the suction level. If you’re still uncomfortable, ask your lactation consultant for advice.
6. Let your baby help you.
Shoot a cute video of your baby to keep on your phone. Watch it, or scroll through all those adorable photos you have, to help get your milk going if it doesn’t start to flow right away.
You could also keep a baby blanket, or something else that has your baby’s scent on it, to trigger that milk “let down.”
Other tips: Sit and relax for a few minutes. Gently massage your breasts, or put a warm compress on them.
7. Give yourself enough time.
With practice, pumping should take about as long as breastfeeding. But you’ll also need some time to wash your hands, set up the pumps, get comfy, and clean up after. You might want to give yourself about 25 minutes while you’re getting used to it.
When you’re done, slide a finger between your breast and the breast shield to break the suction. The milk you’ve pumped will be in the container connected to your pump.
8. Store milk right away.
You can safely store breast milk at room temperature (less than 77 degrees) for 4-6 hours. But it’s best to put it into the refrigerator ASAP. (It can last in the back of a refrigerator for 5 days or be frozen for 6-12 months.) It is a good idea to put a date on stored milk. Do not store milk left over from a feeding.
Only use clean glass, BPA-free plastic containers, or storage bags made for breast milk.
9. Take care of yourself.
When you feel good and you're as rested as possible, your body will make more milk. That makes pumping easier!
Stay hydrated, nourish yourself by eating well, and take naps when you need to. Stress isn’t good for making milk. So take time, even if it’s just a few minutes, to relax.
What’s good for you is good for your baby.