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Pumping Breast Milk: When To Start, How Much To Pump What To Expect

Breastfeeding is the most natural thing for every woman when she delivers her baby. There is usually nothing extra that you need to do to produce milk or feed it to your baby. But with the modern world and our lifestyle come the challenges we face!

At times breastfeeding your child directly might be a challenge, where the mother either has a low supply, and the child doesn't feel satisfied with the slow flow, or if the mother has to travel or go to work. Breast milk pumping and feeding them through a bottle can be the best alternative in such scenarios. This article will focus on breast milk pumping and everything you need to know about it. 

When Should You Start Breast Milk Pumping

Breast milk pumping takes a bit of practice to master. Thus, if you plan to travel or go back to work after the maternity break but want to continue breast milk for your baby, you must consider breast milk pumping. Start a few weeks in advance to learn while you do it and understand your body and how it reacts to pumping. 

Your body and your baby will also need to get accustomed to the new way of consuming milk. Thus, it is always a good idea to start planning and making yourself, your baby and the caregiver who would be feeding the baby used to the new and alternative feeding method. 

How Should You Start Breast Milk Pumping

Here are some steps and guidelines on how to start breast milk pumping and make it a comfortable experience:

  • ◾ Relax – Just like breastfeeding, breast milk pumping will not succeed unless you are in a relaxed state – mentally and physically. So, be calm, choose a comfortable place to sit, and sit with a glass of water by your side to sip if required. 
  • ◾ Prepare Your Breasts – If you are going with breast milk pumping for the first time, you will need to get your breasts used to the process. A gentle massage or a warm compress can help your breast be ready to let down. Also, if you have a low breast milk supply issue, you can try some Healthy Foods To Help Breast Milk Supply before you start. 
  • ◾ Prepare Your Pump – A clean and hygienic pump will help you avoid any infections that can be passed to your child due to contamination. 
  • ◾ Position The Pump – Make sure the pump is appropriately positioned, and the nipple is in the middle of the cup or flange for a good grip. This will also help avoid nipple tears or pain in the breasts due to wrong positioning. 
  • ◾ Start Slow – If you are going ahead with an automatic breast pump, start with the lowest setting and build up as you get comfortable with the breast milk pumping process slowly. 

Pros & Cons Of Breast Milk Pumping

Benefits of breast milk pumping

  • ◾ It comes as a blessing for an unwell mother who is hurt or injured and is not in the condition to breastfeed.
  • ◾ When done regularly, breast milk pumping helps in increasing the milk supply. 
  • ◾ Pumping is an excellent alternative for working mothers who have to go to the office but want to continue feeding breast milk to their baby. 
  • ◾ Pumping is also great for other kids in the family or kids who need breast milk but do not have a lactating mother. Consider donating extra breast milk to a milk bank. 

Some side effects of breast milk pumping

  • ◾ Breast milk is full of nutrition, but freezing and thawing milk can deplete its nutrients. 
  • ◾ If not used properly, breast pumps can cause tissue damage and tears in the nipples.
  • ◾ Changing from breast to bottle and back to the breast can confuse your baby.
  • Breast pumps are an additional expense and take extra time and effort too. 
  • ◾ There is a chance of contamination while storing the breast milk. 

Difference Between Exclusive Pumping Vs Pumping And Breastfeeding

Changing between a breast and a bottle can be confusing for some kids because the flow for both is different. If your baby is over six months of age and is on a few solid and other breast milk feeds, they would make peace with a bottle faster. 

If you decide to breastfeed exclusively, you can pump and feed your child using a bottle. But some mothers like the feeling of bonding with their child through at least one breastfeeding session, especially at night for the sleep time. What you choose entirely depends on you and your baby's comfort. 

Different Types Of Breast Pumps

There are two types of breastfeeding pumps available that you can choose from. Which breastfeeding pump you go for depends on how frequently you need to pump. 

  • ◾ Manual Or Hand Operated Pumps – These are good if you need to pump occasionally. Manual pumps are cheap, but you need to pump the milk using manual labour; thus, this is slow and takes some extra effort. 
  • ◾ Electric Breast Pump – If you need to pump more frequently, like daily, multiple times a day, an electric pump is a better choice to go for. Many working mothers who have to go for breast milk pumping frequently and want to be hands-free to continue their work or take care of the child while pumping often choose an electric pump. 

How To Increase The Breast Milk Supply While Pumping

Here are some tips that will help the success of breast milk pumping and help you increase your supply: 

  • ◾ Be comfortable while you are pumping breast milk. Multitasking is a great thing, but being in a stressful situation – physically or mentally – can reduce your breastmilk supply. 
  • ◾ Use the right breast milk pump meant for you. Your gynaecologist or a lactation consultant can help you figure this out. 
  • ◾ Think about your baby and feeding them while pumping. This is known to help let down and start a good supply for beginning the process.
  • Pump more often. Just like breastfeeding often helps increase milk supply, breast milk pumping also helps increase the supply. 
  • ◾ Take good care of your health and your diet. Breast milk supply is affected by bad health, no matter if you are breastfeeding directly or pumping the milk. 

How To Store Breast Milk

If your baby will not consume breast milk soon after pumping, it is better to store it to keep it from going bad. Store in smaller quantities or quantities in which your baby usually consumes milk in one go. You can use plastic or glass bottles, zip pouches or sealable plastic bags to store breast milk. You can refrigerate the milk or store it in a cooler with ice. 

If it is not too hot, your breast milk will last for a few hours at room temperature. It will be fresh in a cooler with ice for around six hours, in the refrigerator for about 3 – 5 days, and breast milk can last for six months if stored in a freezer. 

How your breastfeeding experience is would depend on many factors. Pumping or not, feeding with a bottle or directly from the breast would depend on many external factors and your situation. However, with some extra effort, you can continue to feed breast milk to your child even if you are not physically present to feed them directly from your breast.  

Common Questions Parents Ask

Q1 - Is it OK to use a used pump?

Yes, you can use a preloved pump, a pump from your previous breastfeeding journey, or even a passed down pump from a family member. As long as you have correctly sanitized the pump, it is safe to use a used pump. Many hospitals rent out cleaned pumps to people who do not want to invest but need one temporarily. 

Q2 - How long should I pump during each session?

Once you practice and master the art of breast milk pumping, you will be done in 10 – 15 minutes in each session. You can repeat pumping after a gap of 3 – 4 hours.

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