Using a breast pump for the first time can seem daunting but once you’ve mastered it, you may find it hard to imagine your feeding journey without one! Not only can pumping help lengthen your breastfeeding journey but it can bring a sense of independence and flexibility to your motherhood experience.
We hope this guide will demystify pumping for you, providing you with the tips and information you need to help you on the way to successful expressing.
Making the decision to get a breast pump
There are so many reasons why you may decide you want or need a breast pump Perhaps, you added a breast pump to your baby list whilst pregnant as it’s something you intended to use from early on. Maybe a change in your lifestyle or circumstances has made getting a breast pump a necessity.
Whatever the reasoning, a breast pump can become a big part of your feeding journey with your little one.
Common reasons for using a breast pump
- Your baby has been born sick or premature and you want to give them your expressed milk.
- Your baby has problems latching on to the breast and you want to give them a bottle of expressed milk.
- You want to increase your milk supply and pumping will help stimulate milk production.
- You have made the decision to exclusively pump milk for your little one.
- Your nipples are very sore from feeding and pumping will give them a break and a chance to heal.
- You have a blocked duct or mastitis and need to pump to help overcome it.
- You’re on medication that affects your milk and so you need to ‘pump and dump’.
- You’ll be away from your baby for an extended period of time (i.e. returning to work or for a social occasion).
Benefits of using a breast pump
Whatever stage of the breastfeeding journey you’re on, using a breast pump can be a positive and useful way of continuing to feed and provide milk for your little one. For many, it offers flexibility and freedom, and for others, it is a crucial way to save or lengthen the breastfeeding journey.
Here are some of the benefits to using a breast pump
- You can continue providing breast milk to your baby even when you are away from them for an extended period of time - such as returning to work.
- It can take the pressure off you to always feed your baby by allowing a partner or caregiver to give a bottle of expressed milk.
- It allows you to build up a freezer stash of milk for when you return to work or for those ‘just incase’ moments.
- It can help maintain or increase your milk supply, if needed.
- It can give you the opportunity to donate your extra breast milk to babies and families in need.
Potential drawbacks of using a breast pump
Pumping can bring many wonderful benefits to you and your little one, however, as with anything there are pros and cons. Whether you plan on pumping all the time or only occasionally, it’s worth being mindful of some of the potential drawbacks of using a breast pump.
- It could cause you to doubt your milk supply if you don’t end up pumping very much
- Repeated breast pump use could lead to an oversupply of milk
- Not using a breast pump in the correct way could lead to breast tissue and/or nipple damage.
- Baby could end up having a bottle preference if given a bottle of expressed milk regularly, and thus may refuse the breast
- You could experience burnout if you have a strict routine of pumping milk alongside other commitments
Choosing a breast pump
When it comes to choosing a breast pump, the first thing you’ll want to ask yourself is where and when you plan on using it. For example, will you be pumping at home and only from time-to-time. Or will you be pumping at work each and every day?
At Pippeta we’ve designed and created breast pumps that fit in with the modern demands of motherhood. Whether you are a busy full-time mum or are juggling work and mum-life, we have you covered. Choose from our range of wearable hands-free breast pumps and manual milk collectors.
Handsfree breast pumps - for regular expressing and ‘on the go’ lifestyle
Our hands free breast pumps are small and lightweight and can be worn inside your nursing bra, with no tubes or wires. They are ideal if you think you’ll want/need to pump regularly. Perhaps you’re returning to work and need to express for comfort and to give your little one milk whilst at childcare. With powerful suction, these pumps are very efficient at expressing milk quickly, easily and discreetly so perfect for those who lead a busy lifestyle.
Features of the Pippeta Wearable Hands Free Breast Pump include:
- Single Pumping
- 5 Suction Modes (5 massage & 5 suction)
- Expression and Massage
- Powerful Suction
- USB Charging Port for easy charging.
Manual milk collector – for occasional or at-home expressing
Manual milk collectors are a perfect low tech and fuss-free way to express milk in the comfort of your own home. Its simple but clever design means you can use it as a pump, as a let-down catcher or to provide relief to engorged breasts.
Whilst they may not be as fast-working as the wearable hands free breast pumps they are a cheaper and more eco-friendly option. Not to mention easy to clean!
Preparing to use your breast pump
As with any new piece of kit that you bring into your home, it’s best to read the instructions and find out how it works before blindly trying to use it and ‘hoping for the best’.
In order to get the best out of your new breast pump, a little preparation can go a long way.
- Read the breast pump instructions before attempting to use your pump for the first time.
- Handle your breast pump and make sure everything is in full working order (this is particularly important if you are renting/borrowing a pump or will be using a second-hand one).
- Find a quiet time and place to use your pump for the first time.
- Plan ahead and don’t leave it to the last minute to pump if you know in advance you’ll be away from your baby for an extended period of time.
Knowing how much milk to pump
Whether you’ve just given birth and need to pump straight away, or have been direct nursing for a while and want to start pumping, chances are you have no idea how much milk to actually pump for your little one.
The amount of breast milk you produce depends on a variety of factors, including your baby’s age, the type of breast pump you have, the time of day (yes, really!), and much more besides.
As a guide, you can expect to pump the following amounts based on your child’s age:
- Days 5 to 7: Up to 2oz.
- Weeks 1 to 3: Up to about 3oz.
- 4 Weeks to 6 Months: Up to 5oz.
When you begin pumping for the first time, don’t be disheartened if you are not able to express any milk or less milk than you expected in the first couple of tries. Pumping milk really is a new skill to master. How much you are able to pump is not always an indicator of your milk supply, however, if you are concerned about your milk production speak with your midwife or lactation consultant for help and advice.
How to pump more milk
It can be helpful to think of pumping milk as a skill that takes time to perfect. If you’ve begun to pump but are getting frustrated with only being able to express small amounts, try not to be disheartened. With practice and persistence, you’ll begin to see results. Even some small changes to how you do things, can make a positive difference to your output.
9 tried and tested ways to pump more milk
1. Ensure your breast pump is in good working order
This may seem like an obvious one but you’d be surprised at how many people forget to check the effectiveness of their breast pump when they first get theirs. Perhaps you’ve had your pump a few years or it’s been given to you by a friend. If you’re using an older electric pump, it may not be operating as effectively as it once was.
Start by taking your pump apart, cleaning it thoroughly, and checking it is fit for use. Look at the user manual and make sure it’s put back the correct way and functioning properly. If you suspect a part needs to be replaced, you may be able to purchase a new part, or you may decide the best option is to purchase a new breast pump.
Whilst you’re checking everything is in working order, also make sure you have breast milk storage bags or milk storage bottles to hand for safe and secure storage of breastmilk in the fridge or freezer.
2. Pump more often
If you want to pump more milk then you need to pump regularly. That’s because milk production operated on a demand-supply process. When a pump or baby removes milk from a breast, more breast milk is made.
Try pumping as often as your baby eats, or a bare minimum of 8 times a day. You might want to set an alarm for every three hours to pump to act as your reminder.
3. Try night-time pumping
The early hours of the morning is when the milk-making hormone prolactin is at its highest so pumping at least once through the night should help increase your milk supply.
You may want to set your alarm (unless your baby is you’re alarm!) for between 1-5am to pump at least once during the night.
4. Check you have the right breast flange size
One of the big reasons why people are not able to pump very much milk is because the breast flange on their breast pump is not the right size for their nipple. The flange (also called funnel, breast shell, or breast shield) refers to the part of the pump that is held next to the breast.
Breast flange sizes come in a variety of sizes and you should refer to the breast pump manufacturers guide to assess what size you need. Using the right breast flange size can make pumping more comfortable and more effective in terms of output.
5. Create a relaxing environment to pump in
In an ideal world, you want to pump in a quiet and serene setting where you feel comfortable and relaxed. Perhaps somewhere dimly lit with music playing…however, often this just won’t be possible in the busyness of life!
If you’re able to pump at home try setting up a pumping station at home, where you have your breast pump, breast milk bags and other necessities like snacks close by. You’d be surprised at how this can really help you relax and pump in peace and comfort.
For those of you who need to pump on the go, at work or in the hospital, they try reading or listening to music to relax you. One study has shown that the moms of hospitalized babies who listened to guided relaxation or soothing music while pumping had an increased pumping output.
6. Think about your little one whilst you pump
It may sound simple, but thinking about your little one, or having them close by whilst you pump could have a big effect on the amount of milk you produce. This is because it helps boost oxytocin, one of the hormones involved in milk production.
If you can’t be near to your little one when you pump, look at a picture of them or have an item of their clothing close by to smell whilst you pump. Some people even record their baby’s cries and play them back to increase their supply!
7. Consider power pumping
Power pumping is a relatively new concept coined by lactation consultant Cathy Watson.
The technique mimics a baby cluster feeding which can boost milk production.
Some people find it helpful to do a 2-3 day-long power pump every couple of weeks to “supercharge” their milk supply.
This is what a power pumping session can look like:
- 20mins pump – pump until milk stops flowing
- 10min rest
- 10min pump even if no milk flows
- 10min relax
- 10min pump even if no milk flows
- Repeat 1-3 times a day for 2-3 days to increase your milk supply.
8. Keep your energy up
As we’ve already mentioned, pumping takes time and energy and so you need to make sure you are eating, drinking, and getting rest to be able to do it effectively. In the business of everyday life we know it can be so easy to skip a meal, live off scraps, and forget to drink enough fluids. But remember, taking care of yourself will pay off dividends.
Fill bottles of water and place them in the fridge and close to where you pump, along with some snacks to keep your energies up during pumping sessions. Whilst broken sleep can be part and parcel of early motherhood, do try and get to bed at a decent time and rest when you can. It can be helpful to set your bedroom up as a place of sanctuary – somewhere you want to be and where you feel relaxed.
9. Opt for a manual hands-free breast pump with powerful suction
When it comes to maximising output, your best chance of pumping more milk is by using a breast pump with a powerful suction and which has a variety of settings for which to pump – allowing you to pump comfortably and effectively in a short space of time.
Our award-winning wearable hands-free breast pump has a powerful suction and comes with five suction modes (five massage and five suction). It is also silent, portable and discreet making for a more enjoyable and relaxing pumping experience. The pumping process becomes easier and more convenient – giving you the best chance of producing more milk for your little one.
What to do if pumping hurts
If you’re finding pumping painful then this is a sign something isn’t right. Time to troubleshoot!
- Make sure the flange is the right size for your nipple. Too small or too big and the flange could be pinching you. If you’re unsure check the recommended flange sizes from the breast pump website.
- Change positioning. Make sure that your nipple is in the centre of your flange. If it's off to one side it can get pulled and pinched in the flange tunnel.
- Adjust the speed and suction settings. Many people think the faster the setting and the stronger the suction, the more milk they will produce. But this isn’t always the case, and it can actually make for a very uncomfortable pumping session. Instead, it’s better to have your pump set to emulate the speed and suction that matches your baby’s sucking. This is a more natural, comfortable and effective way to produce milk.
- Don’t pump for too long. Again, many people think the longer they pump the better, but this isn’t the case and can actually cause a lot of discomfort. Instead, pump for shorter periods of time (no more than 30 minutes) to yield the best results and to pump pain-free.
Storing your breast milk
When you use a breast pump you’ll need to store your breast milk soon after, unless of course, you plan to feed your baby with that milk soon afterwards (breast milk can be kept at room temperature for up to four hours).
If you plan to use the expressed milk within a few days then you can store it safely in a fridge for between 3-5 days. The milk can be stored in a sterilised milk storage bottle or in a breast milk storage bag but be careful not to store it in the door of the fridge as this can expose it to mixed temperatures (due to door opening and closing).
If you want to store your milk for a longer period of time, then you can do so in the freezer. Breast milk can be kept in a freezer for up to six months in a sealed breast milk storage bag. Remember to write on the bag the date and the amount of milk there is so you can keep track of when it needs to be used by and how much you actually have.
Expressed milk from different feeding sessions can be combined if it’s been expressed over the course of the same day, but avoid mixing cold milk with milk at room temperature. Instead, cool the room temperature milk and then add it to the already cold milk.
To defrost your breast milk, leave the storage bag in a bowl in the fridge for approximately 12 hours. If you find your milk smells a little strange (for example, it may smell like it is ‘off’ or sour) don’t worry. Upon defrosting, the composition of the milk alters a little and it can end up having a strange sort of smell. It should still be safe for your baby to take so long as you have defrosted it correctly. Whatever you do, do not defrost breast milk in the microwave or refreeze it!
Fridge and freezer storage
Cleaning your breast pump
It’s important to clean your breast pump after each use to ensure it is free from germs and properly sanitised. Thoroughly wash your pump and the parts in hot soapy water in a washbasin rather than a sink (where germs could contaminate the pump). Rinse them and then lay them out to air dry on a clean drying cloth, before putting them away.
If your breast pump parts are dishwasher-safe, place them in the top rack of a dishwasher and put it on a hot water and heated drying cycle (or sanitising setting). Make sure your hands are washed before taking the parts out of the dishwasher and placing them on a clean drying cloth to air dry before storing.
Giving your baby a bottle of expressed milk
So you’ve done the hard work of pumping milk for your little one and now you’re turning your attention to how you will feed your baby with this milk. Firstly you’ll need bottles and a sterilising machine to clean the bottles. Once your bottles have been cleaned and sterilised you can add your breast milk to the bottle.
You may find your baby takes to the bottle straight away with no issues. Alternatively, your baby may refuse to drink from a bottle. Some breastfed babies have a hard time feeding from a bottle, especially if all they have known is feeding directly from the breast for the first few months of their life. Taking milk from a bottle is a new skill for them to master and so it’s important to be patient with them.
Tips for helping your baby accept a bottle of milk
If you want to be able to give your baby a bottle but they are refusing to take to it, here are 5 tips to help.
1. Offer it at a time when your baby is not very hungry, usually babies are more amenable in the morning or as they are wakening up.
2. Hold baby close to your chest whilst bottle feeding as they will be used to this feeling of closeness when breastfed. Let them hold and explore the bottle and teat for themselves.
3. Hold the bottle horizontally and PACE the bottle, taking regular pauses. It is very easy to overfeed with a bottle. It should take 5+ minutes per oz. Breast flow rates don’t change over time, so your bottle teat doesn’t have to either.
4. If your baby is at an age where they can drink from a cup, then try putting the milk in a cup rather than a bottle.
5. If babies refuse and get upset, stop and try later on. Consider having someone else give your baby a bottle. If you are the one giving them the bottle then the baby may be confused and just want to feed from you.
We hope you found this introductory guide to using a breast pump helpful and reassuring. We want to empower you to have the best possible experience and outcome from using a breast pump.
If you have any questions about our range of Pippeta breast pumps, please contact us here
If you need help and support with breastfeeding or are concerned about your milk supply, please speak with your healthcare provider, or lactation consultant.