Using a breast pump is a good way to provide the benefits of breastfeeding when you have to be away from your baby. Pumping will help keep up your milk supply and prevent discomfort and breast engorgement. There are different types of breast pumps to choose from. They may look confusing at first, but they are easy to use. If you have any problems with pumping, ask for help. Many healthcare facilities have lactation consultants who can help you learn how to use a breast pump.
- Read all the instructions that came with your pump. Be sure you know how to put it together and how often you will need to clean and sanitize the parts.
- Choose a good place to pump. Find a spot that’s clean, comfortable, and private so you can relax. If you’re pumping at work, you may feel more at ease in a room that has a door you can lock.
Things to remember
- Wash your hands before you touch the breast shield or your breast. Use soap and scrub your hands for 10 to 15 seconds, then rinse well in warm water. Use a clean paper towel to dry your hands completely.
- Put the pump together. As you put it together, check to see that all parts are clean.
- Get in the mood. If you aren’t with your baby, try looking at a photo; often just thinking about your baby will start the let-down reflex.
- Position the breast shield over your breast. Your nipple should be right in the middle of the shield. You may need to try a few different sizes of breast shield to find one that fits you best.
- Start pumping with a low level of suction. Increase suction as your milk begins to flow. Some pumps will do this for you.
- Empty both breasts during each pumping session. After pumping, your breasts should feel soft with no hard areas.
After you have finished pumping
- Put the milk in a refrigerator or cooler right away. It’s best to use milk as soon as possible after pumping it. If you won’t be using the milk within a few days, you can freeze it. Be sure to store breast milk safely.
- Take the pump apart and wash well any part that came in contact with your breast or breast milk. Let the parts air-dry.
- Pumping with an electric pump will probably take 10 to 20 minutes for each breast, but it may take longer. To know when to stop pumping, watch for signs that your breasts are empty.
- You will feel a tugging when the pump is on, but pumping should not be painful. If it hurts, turn off the pump. Change the position of the breast shield or try a larger breast shield.
- To keep your milk supply up, try to pump at least every 3 to 4 hours, and breast-feed as often as you can. Talk to a lactation consultant if your milk supply is getting smaller.
- A painful lump or swollen area in the breast may be a sign of a blocked milk duct or breast infection. Call your doctor if you notice this problem. You may be able to solve the problem on your own by pumping or breast-feeding more often from the breast that has the lump or swelling.
Important information for storing your breast milk!
- When collecting milk, be sure to store it in clean containers, such as screw cap bottles, hard plastic cups with tight caps, or heavy-duty bags that fit directly into nursery bottles. Avoid using ordinary plastic storage bags or formula bottle bags, as these could easily leak or spill.
- If delivering breast milk to a child care provider, clearly label the container with your baby’s name and date.
- Clearly label the milk with the date it was expressed to facilitate using the oldest milk first.
- Do not add fresh milk to already frozen milk within a storage container. It is best not to mix the two.
- Do not save milk from a used bottle for use at another feeding.
Safely thawing breast milk
- As time permits, thaw frozen breast milk by transferring it to the refrigerator for thawing or by swirling it in a bowl of warm water.
- Avoid using a microwave oven to thaw or heat bottles of breast milk
- Microwave ovens do not heat liquids evenly. Uneven heating could easily scald a baby or damage the milk
- Bottles may explode if left in the microwave too long.
- Excess heat can destroy the nutrient quality of the expressed milk.
- Do not re-freeze breast milk once it has been thawed.
Source: American Academy of Pediatrics