Pumping 101: Tips and Tricks

Mom with newborn
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Breast pumping can be tricky and frustrating for a new mom. You're doing your best, but might end up with a lot of questions. How do you know if you're pumping enough? How can you get into a routine at work?

When to Start Pumping

Not all new mothers can or want to breastfeed and that is a choice every mother must make on her own. The long-term physical and mental health benefits of breastfeeding babies are well documented, but only a mother can decide what is right for her and her child. That said, new moms who are breastfeeding should feed her baby at the breast each time for the first 3-4 weeks.

At 3-4 weeks, you should start to train baby to take the bottle and definitely not later than 4-6 weeks. The bottle should be given to the baby by someone other than you because your baby associates feeding time with your breast and apart from training them to take the bottle it should always be you feeding them at the breast if you're with them.

New parents often think that they're helping by offering to feed baby in the middle of the night with a bottle, so you can keep sleeping, but in truth you'll just have to get up to pump anyway. If your partner wants to help, let them bring baby to you for natural breastfeeding.

Generally, you only want to pump to fill about 2 ounces of milk into a bottle. As baby gets older this will increase to 3 ounces. When starting out pumping its okay to pump a little extra, but don't continue to do so or you run the risk of tricking your body into thinking you have twins.

Tips and Tricks for Breast Pumping

Pumping in the early days with baby around should be easy, the troubles start when you're away from baby because of the let-down response. The let-down response occurs naturally when you're holding your baby at feeding time because the pituitary gland in your brain releases oxytocin which tells the breast to start expressing milk. Without baby present, this can make it more difficult unless you can trick your brain into creating the let-down response.

Being stressed out can block the let-down response, so remember that the most important thing is for you to be relaxed. This can be tricky at work because if your job is like most peoples then it will have its stressful moments. Try to find a comfortable place with soothing lighting where you can listen to music to relax into the let-down response.

Some great recommendations for new mothers to elicit the let-down response are to have pictures or video of your baby handy at the baby's normal feeding time. Another thing that will come in handy will be one of your baby's outfits or a blanket that you can smell because the brain reacts to the sense of smell so deeply. Massaging the breast before and during pumping can also help a lot.

Pretty much anything that helps you relax is a good idea so long as its healthy and safe for you.

Storage, Care, and Handling of Expressed Breast Milk and Breast Pumps

  • Breast pumps should be sterilized daily
  • Breast milk is good in an air-conditioned room for up to 6 hours
  • Refrigerated breast milk will last 5-7 days
  • Breast milk can be frozen in 2-3 ounce servings but after being defrosted is only good for 24 hours
  • NEVER microwave breast milk, it destroys the nutrition value and can create dangerous hot spots
  • Always use a cooler to transport breast milk home from work

Pumping breast milk should never hurt. If your breast pump is hurting you, you may need a larger flange for it. For example, if your nipple measures 16 mm in diameter, your recommended breast shield size is 21 mm because the 21 mm shield fits nipples up to 17 mm in diameter. If your nipple diameter measures 24 mm, your recommended size would be 30 mm. Health insurers provide new mothers with a free breast pump, but not all nipples are the same. If your pump is hurting you, then it's probably time to buy a different flange for it. Also, some hands-free, pumping bras can cause blocked ducts which can be painful.

For more information or to speak with a lactation consultant, please visit our website.

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