Pumping Breast Milk

Pumping breast milk makes life easier when you are nursing your baby.

If you are away from home, back at work or just need a break from breastfeeding, you may choose to either pump or hand express your milk.

    You may decide to hand express milk instead of using a breast pump. You can also use hand expression and breast massage if your breasts are engorged (swollen, tender breasts) or to soften the areola to so your baby can latch on to your breast for nursing.

    How to Do Hand Expression

    Hand expression may take about 20 to 30 minutes. If you use this technique, express from one breast for three to five minutes until your milk flow slows down. Express from the other breast and repeat this process on both breasts.

    • Place your thumb and index finger on your areola – with your thumb above and your index and remaining fingers below the nipple – about 1 to 1 1⁄2 inches behind the nipple.
    • Press your thumb and index finger in toward your chest wall.
    • Roll your thumb and fingers forward by moving them together in a press/release rhythm behind your nipple. This stimulates your milk flow.
    • Once your milk flow slows, rotate your hand and press from the sides of your areola.
    • Continue this same motion, moving around your entire areola.
    • Repeat this process on each breast a few times.

    Hand expression should not be painful. If it is, be careful not to squeeze too hard. Make sure you collect the milk in a clean container. Cover containers for storage in the refrigerator or freezer and label the container with the date on it.

    Choosing a breast pump that's right for you depends how often you're going to pump, how much time you have to do it and the amount of money you want to spend.

    There are three different kinds of pumps:

    • Hand operated: These pumps are sold under several names at most department or drug stores. They are small and portable, but you may find the pumping action becomes tiresome.
    • Battery operated: With this pump, you have the added expense of replacing the batteries. They tend to pump milk slowly and are somewhat unreliable.
    • Electric: Electric pumps, such as MedelaTM, HollisterTM, AmedaTM and AventTM, are widely recommended and most can be rented. Moms of premature babies are advised to rent these pumps because they are very efficient and help maintain the milk supply. If you're a mom who is returning to work and needs to pump during the workday, a fully automatic pump is efficient and saves time. Most moms choose an electric breast pump with a double-collection kit. The automatic suction and release action more closely imitates the way your baby sucks.

    Have questions about the type of pump to purchase or rent? Talk with one of our lactation consultants by calling our Lactation Warmline at 225-924-8239.

    Practice with your pump for a week or two to get a feel for it. Most moms have success pumping right after their baby eats or between feedings.

    • Give yourself time to become accustomed to pumping.
    • Most moms don’t pump as much milk out of their breasts as the baby does when nursing.
    • The let-down reflex usually comes slowly at first. Look at a picture of your baby or listen to music to help with let-down.
    • When single pumping, pump one breast for a few minutes. When your milk flow slows, switch to the other breast. Continue until both breasts have been pumped twice. This usually takes 20 to 30 minutes. Pumping both breasts at the same time saves time and is more efficient.
    • Drinking at least eight to 12 (8 oz) glasses of fluids per day helps you maintain your milk supply. Most moms find it helpful to drink a glass of water while pumping.

    No matter what type of pump you use, it is important to take care of yourself by:

    • Eating a good diet
    • Drinking lots of fluids
    • Getting plenty of rest

    Woman’s Mom & Baby Boutique (225-231-5578) has the breast-pump supplies you need including:

    • Replacement parts
    • Nursing bras
    • Storage bags and accessories
    • AmedaTM products
    • MedelaTM products

    Mothers who qualify for the Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) program may get a breast pump from their parish health unit.

    • How to get a breast pump through Healthy Louisiana:

    To make your pumping session successful, pump in a quiet place where you can relax. Sit with your shoulders and back in a comfortable position. Use pillows for support. Have everything you need within reach, including water to drink.

    Here are some tips that may help stimulate let-down:

    • Gently stimulate your nipples before you begin.
    • 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 your baby's room, look at a picture of your baby while pumping or smell an article of clothing that has the scent of your baby on it.
    • Wash your hands with soap and water before you begin.
    • Assemble all the pump parts.
    • Plug the pump in and check the suction setting before placing it on your 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, then 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.
    • When using a single-collection kit, you should pump each breast 10 to 15 minutes and for at least two full minutes after the milk flow stops. You may want to switch the pump from side to side occasionally during the pumping session, massaging your breast gently each time you switch sides. This helps your milk flow more easily.
    • If you use a double-collection kit, pump both breasts for a total of 10 to 15 minutes and for at least two full minutes after the milk flow stops. You may find that massaging the breasts from time to time during the pumping session helps your milk flow more easily. Double pumping is much faster than single pumping. It also helps increase your prolactin levels and increase your milk supply.
    • Place pump milk into clean plastic bottles.
    • Let your nipples air dry when you have finished pumping. Massage expressed breast milk into sore nipples. Some moms apply a small amount of pure hydrous lanolin to sore nipples after pumping. Lanolin does not have to be washed off before the next pumping.
    • When you need to take expressed milk with you, use a small cooler-carrier with a frozen reusable cold pack. Wrap the cold or frozen milk in a soft cloth but don’t put ice cubes directly around the containers of frozen milk.

    You might 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 helps your milk supply. The amount of milk you are able to express changes over time.

    • 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.

    You don’t need to wash prepackaged bottles unless they were contaminated after being opened. These bottles are for single-use only. Be sure to sterilize all pump parts that touch milk and all reusable bottles once a day by boiling them for 20 minutes. Air-dry them upside down on a clean towel. You can also use a bottle sterilizer or a microwave sterilizer made especially for bottles.

    Even though your breasts are not sterile, there are some things you can do to keep your baby’s milk as clean as possible:

    • Wash your hands before you begin to pump.
    • Try to express or pump directly into the container used for storage. This helps avoid contamination that may occur when transferring milk from one container to another.
    • When traveling, always keep your milk refrigerated. A small ice chest with reusable ice packages is good for this.

    Freshly pumped breast milk that’s never been refrigerated can remain at room temperature for only an hour before you either must feed it to your baby or store it. After one hour, it should be refrigerated or frozen. Your milk can be stored for:

    • two to four weeks in a freezer section inside a refrigerator
    • four to six months in a freezer that is not frost-free
    • 12 months in a deep-freeze freezer set at zero degrees Fahrenheit

    Any thawed breast milk should be used within 24 hours and never be refrozen.

    Want to learn more about collecting and storing milk at home?

    The best way to keep your milk supply steady is to empty your breasts frequently and completely. It’s normal for the amount of milk you express to vary from day to day and from one pumping session to another. You may produce more milk at the beginning of the day and less at the end of the day. Some moms also produce different amounts of milk from each breast.

    Few parents expect or are prepared when their newborn baby is admitted to Woman’s Newborn and Infant Intensive Care Unit (NICU). Giving birth to a premature or ill baby (or babies) does not mean you cannot breastfeed. Actually, the opposite is true.

    If your baby is premature or ill, there are even more reasons for you to provide your own milk and eventually breastfeed, if you desire. Providing milk for your baby allows you to contribute to your baby’s care in a very special and unique way.