Pumping Breast Milk
When to Begin
If you will be pumping your breasts when you return to work, practice for 1 or 2 weeks before you go back to get the hang of it. You can try pumping just after your baby eats, or you can pump your breasts between feedings.
Practicing at home will help you learn how your pump works. During this time, you also can start to collect and store breast milk to be fed to your baby when you return to work.
Finding a pump
The most effective type of breast pump is a hospital-grade, electric breast pump with a double-collection kit. The automatic suction and release action more closely imitates the way a baby sucks than do other pumps. Most mothers find it takes less time to get more milk when using this type of pump.
You can rent breast pumps on a weekly or monthly basis. If you decide to rent a pump, be sure that it is a hospital-grade pump that will work with the collection kit you already have.
You can rent breast pumps through the Woman's Mom & Baby Boutique located on the first floor of the Physician Office Building, next to Woman's Hospital or by calling 225-231-5578. Find the supplies that you need: breast-pump accessories and replacement parts, nursing bras, storage bags and accessories, Medela and Ameda products.
You can also locate a rental store near your home by looking in the phone book under "breastfeeding supplies and information." Mothers who qualify for the WIC program may also be able to get a breast pump from their parish health unit. If you plan to get a pump from WIC, it may be a good idea to rent a pump elsewhere until you receive your pump from WIC to avoid missing any pumping sessions.
You will find other types of breast pumps on the market, such as small manual or battery-powered pumps. If you have questions about the type of pump to purchase or rent, or have questions about a breast pump you are considering, talk with our lactation consultants.
Preparing to Pump
To make your pumping session more effective and comfortable, pump in a place where you can relax. Sit with your shoulders relaxed and your back comfortable.
Have everything you need within reach, including something to drink. The following tips may also help stimulate let-down:
- Gently stimulate the nipples before you begin
- Have something to eat or drink just before pumping and while pumping
- Massage your breasts before you begin and periodically during the pumping session
- Think of your baby, pump in the baby's room, look at a picture of the baby while pumping, or smell an article of clothing your baby has recently worn
If your baby is in the NICU, please visit Pumping for NICU moms.
- Wash your hands with soap and water before you begin.
- Assemble all pump parts.
- Plug the pump in and check the suction setting before placing it on the breast.
- Before you turn the pump on, center the shield over your nipple so the nipple can move freely without rubbing against the sides.
- Always begin pumping with the suction regulator set on a level that is comfortable for you. Use this setting for the first few minutes of pumping. Gradually increase to the setting that removes milk completely in the shortest time. You should not feel any pinching or pain. If you experience sore nipples, it may help to pump more often but for shorter times or to use a lower setting.
- Mothers using a single-collection kit need to pump each breast for 10 to 15 minutes and for at least 2 full minutes after the milk flow stops. You may want to switch the pump from side to side occasionally during the pumping session, massaging the breast gently each time you switch sides. This may help the milk to flow more easily.
- Mothers using a double-collection kit will need to pump both breasts for a total of 10 to 15 minutes and for at least 2 full minutes after the milk flow stops. You may find that massaging the breasts from time to time during the pumping session will help milk flow more easily. Double-pumping is much faster than single-pumping, and will also help increase your prolactin levels and increase your milk supply.
- Pump milk into clean plastic bottles.
- When you have finished pumping, allow your nipples to air dry. Expressed breast milk can be massaged into sore nipples after pumping. A small amount of pure hydrous lanolin can be applied to the nipples after pumping. Lanolin does not have to be washed off before the next pumping.
- Transport your milk to the hospital in a small cooler-carrier with a frozen reusable cold pack. Wrap the cold or frozen milk in a soft cloth. Do not put ice cubes around your containers of frozen milk. Ice will cause your milk to thaw more quickly.
Cleaning Your Pump
- After each use, rinse the breast flange in cold water.
- Use a bottlebrush and hot, soapy water to wash all reusable bottles.
- Rinse the bottles with hot water.
- Place bottles upside down on a clean towel to air-dry.
- There is no need to wash the prepackaged bottles given to you unless they have been contaminated after they have been opened and before you use them. These bottles are for single-use only.
- Sterilize all pump parts that touch milk and all reusable bottles once a day by boiling for 20 minutes. Allow them to air dry upside down on a clean towel.
- You can also use a bottle sterilizer or a microwave sterilizer made especially for bottles.
Storing your milk
Freshly pumped breast milk that has never been refrigerated can remain at room temperature for only 1 hour before it must either be fed to your baby or stored for future use. If your baby will not receive the milk within 1 hour, it should be refrigerated or frozen immediately. Your milk can be stored for:
- 2 to 4 weeks in a freezer section inside a refrigerator
- 4 to 6 months in a freezer that is not frost-free
- 12 months in a deep-freeze freezer set at 0ºF
Thawed breast milk should be used within 24 hours and should never be refrozen.
Maintaining Your Milk Supply
Frequent and complete emptying of the breast is the most important factor for keeping your milk supply steady. It is normal for the amount of milk you express to vary from day to day and from one pumping session to another. Many mothers produce more milk at the beginning of the day and less at the end of the day. Some mothers also produce different amounts of milk from each breast.
How much milk will I get when I pump?
You may not get much milk when you first start pumping. After a few days of regular pumping, your breasts will begin to make more milk. Also, the more milk you pump, the more milk your breasts produce. You should drink lots of fluids to stay hydrated (which will help your milk supply).
The amount of milk you will be able to express will change over time.