Everything You Need To Know About Breast Pumping
Breastfeeding is the ideal way of providing your baby with all the nutrients, antibodies, enzymes, and brain-boosting fatty acids they need. These nutrients keep your little one healthy as they grow and develop while fighting off diseases and infections.
While pediatricians often suggest for mamas to feed on demand, this could be difficult, especially for on-the-go moms who are working or those who have a lot on their plate. Should you wish to continue feeding your baby breastmilk despite not being able to or not wanting to breastfeed, having a breast pump is an effective way to establish and maintain a good milk supply.
If you’re not yet convinced about purchasing a breast pump, here’s everything you need to know about it to help you in making a decision.
Reasons Why You Should Consider Buying a Breast Pump
The reasons for buying a breast pump could be different for every mom. While some would like to supplement direct latching with pumping, some moms prefer to breast pump solely and feed their little one through a bottle. Regardless of the reason, breast pumps can be beneficial for both mom and baby, and here are some reasons why:
- It allows you to build a stash of milk for when you’re away from your baby for whatever reason, be it work, running errands, or even just some “me-time.”
- Your baby has difficulty latching or feeding directly from the breast.
- You would like to continue offering breast milk without having baby latch directly on you.
- You’re hoping to increase your milk supply.
- Your little one has started eating solids, and you need to remove pressure from the breast or are suffering from mastitis and need to drain your breast.
- You would like to donate to a milk bank.
- A lot more!
What You Need to Know Before Breast Pumping
Before starting your breast pumping journey, there are some essential pointers you must know. If you have a full-term healthy breastfeeding baby, you need not begin as soon as giving birth. You can wait a couple of weeks before you start pumping and storing breastmilk.
Meanwhile, if your baby is preterm or cannot breastfeed just yet, you may choose to pump soon after birth, preferably within one to six hours of delivery, to stimulate your milk supply.
If you’re pumping to supplement breastfeeding:
- Pump in the morning, as most moms get the most milk first thing in the morning
- Pump between breastfeeding to increase supply, ideally 30-60 minutes after nursing or at least one hour before breastfeeding.
- If your little one wants to breastfeed after you finish pumping, just let them. While it may take longer for them to get the milk they need, some babies are patient enough to feed longer.
If you’re exclusively pumping:
- Create a schedule that allows you to pump 8 to 10 times in 24 hours. Total milk production should be 25-35oz (750 to 1,035mL) per day.
- Once you’ve reached your full milk production, maintain that schedule for your body to regulate your milk supply.
- Your schedule can be completely different from other exclusively pumping moms, and that’s completely okay. Feel free to work your breast-pumping schedule around you and baby and do what works best for the two of you.
Choosing the Right Breast Pump for You
Before purchasing a breast pump, you need to consider a couple of things, such as how often you plan to pump and how much you’re willing to spend.
If you’re headed back to work full time and will be away from home, speed and efficiency will be at the top of your list for non-negotiables. A powerful electric machine that pumps both breasts simultaneously is your best bet, but it could be a bit costly. While it’s tempting to borrow a used breast pump, don’t – you can never be sure that it is germ-free, even with your own accessory kit. Here are some double breast pump suggestions tried and tested by mamas:
For stay-at-home moms who only wish to supplement breastfeeding with pumping, a single electric, battery-operated pump or even a manual pump could do the trick for you. However, one thing to note is that while these pumps are less expensive, they will take twice as long to drain your breasts. Battery-operated pumps also cost cheaper but burn through batteries quickly. Here are some single electric, battery-operated, and manual pumps for you to choose from:
To make your breast pumping journey more comfortable, stock up on essentials that can help you along the way. Here are some mom-favorites you can find on Edamama:
Operating your Breast Pump
Once you’ve chosen a pump and you’re ready to start pumping out milk, make sure to maximize your output by drinking at least eight glasses of water a day. You may also choose to take supplements to increase output. Do what works for you!
Learning how to pump can be daunting, but we’ve summarized a list to ease your worries:
- Read your breast pump’s manual to familiarize yourself with the different pump parts and instructions.
- Find a peaceful place for you to sit and bring with you things that would help you relax, such as a drink, a music player, or a book.
- Wash your hands with soap and water
- Assemble your pump kit
- If you are double pumping, hold the flanges in place by putting your fingers below the flange and your thumb on top. When adjusting your pump dials, put one arm across both breasts to keep the airtight seal.
- Turn your pump on
- Similar to how your baby nurses at the breast, start with high speed, low suction until you see milk flow.
- While expressing, try to do a quick breast massage to encourage letdown. Leaning over and gently shaking your breasts can also do the trick. Once letdown occurs, adjust speed to medium and increase the suction based on your own comfort level.
- When milk flow decreases, increase speed to high until the next letdown before decreasing back to medium speed.
Although you might feel uncomfortable at first, pumping will get quicker and easier once you get the hang of it.
How Much You Should Pump
How much milk you expect to pump depends on several factors such as your baby’s age, the time since your last feeding or pumping session, the time of day, your pump type, and, believe it or not, even your mood! Your output can increase or decrease depending on whether you are relaxed or stressed.
On average, here are some things you can expect from your output:
- More milk is expressed during mornings.
- The volume of milk gradually decreases during the day towards the evening (if you pump on schedule)
- Breast milk volumes depend on several variables, and each breast may produce different volumes (e.g., one breast can express 4oz while the other can express 2oz)
If you’re exclusively pumping, try to maintain full milk production of 25-35oz (750-1035mL) per 24 hours. Although it may take a while to achieve this target, do not worry and let time take its course.
Babies may take in more milk from the bottle from when they are breastfed. The faster and more consistent flow of the bottle could cause babies to take in more than they need. To prevent overfeeding, try using .
How To Achieve and Maintain Full Milk Production
Regardless of your reason for choosing to pump exclusively, these tips can help you achieve and even maintain full milk production. Pumping frequently to drain the breast completely sends signals to your body to produce more milk; therefore, the more often you pump, the more milk you’ll make.
From Birth to Day 4
- If you can, start pumping within six hours after birth.
- Use a multi-user pump to initiate milk supply.
- Expect to pump just a little bit of colostrum at first.
- As soon as you can, pump 8-10 times in 24 hours. This is to mimic how many times your baby would feed from the breast each day. The same way pumping more could increase milk output, pumping less would also cause you to produce less milk.
- Double pump (both breasts at once) – it helps you save time and boosts production quickly.
- Pump for at least 10-20 minutes until your milk comes in on either Day 3 or 4. Hand express any remaining milk, as this helps drain your breasts which ultimately help you make milk faster
- To establish your milk supply, pump twice between 1-6 AM. In the early morning, the milk-making hormone levels increase. Take advantage of this to increase your milk production!
Day 4 to Full Production
- Pump longer than you used to, and continue until two minutes after the last drop of milk or until your breasts soften
- Focus on your number of pumps per day (keep it steady at 8-10 times in 24 hours) rather than the time between your pumping sessions (every 2-3 hours)
- Do not let more than five hours pass without pumping during your little one’s first two weeks of life
Maintaining Full Production
Once you’re hitting 25-35oz per baby in 24 hours, you’ve reached your goal! Reaching the target could allow you to pump fewer times each day and maintain production. At this stage, you can:
- Maintain a schedule to continue producing your goal amount of milk in 24 hours
- Sleep more once you’ve maintained your optimal production. Try to pump right before sleeping and first thing in the morning. If you can do this without uncomfortable breast fullness or a decrease in supply, you can adjust your schedule, so you don’t have to wake up in the middle of the night.
- Pump for a shorter period at around 10-15 minutes per session
- Once a week, try to add up the milk you express in 24 hours. Compare it per week to see how your production levels are
Increasing Milk Production
If you’re looking to boost your milk production, start as soon as possible to see results faster. Some ideas you can do to try increasing supply include:
• Pumping more (8-12 sessions a day)
• Pumping longer by waiting two minutes until after the last drop of milk or until breasts feel soft/empty
• Hand expressing after pumping
• Massaging your breasts during or after pumping
• Seeking help from a lactation consultant
Storing Your Expressed Milk Safely
You can transfer your expressed milk in if you plan to freeze them. Remember not to fill them to the brim, as you will need to allow the milk to expand. Remember to remove excess air from the bags before laying them flat in your freezer. Frozen milk can last up to three months in the freezer and six months in a deep freezer.
If you opt to store your milk in instead, refrigerate the milk as soon as possible. You can only keep freshly expressed milk for up to six hours at room temperature for as long as it is not exposed to the sun or other sources of heat. In the refrigerator, milk will stay fresh for up to 4 days.
Properly Ending Your Pumping Journey
When you decide to stop pumping, always remember that it is better to do things gradually. Stopping abruptly can lead to engorgement or even mastitis, so it is essential to take your time. Here are a couple of ways you can start weaning from the pump:
- Drop one pumping session daily, giving your body two to three days to adjust. After two to three days, drop another pumping session. Repeat the pattern until you’re fully weaned from the pump, but be sure to leave your first (when you wake up) and last (before sleeping) daily pumpings until the end of the process.
- Keep the number of pumping sessions the same, but pump for shorter periods of time. If you were getting 4oz at each pump session, stop after getting 3 oz. Give your body two to three days to adjust and repeat the pattern until you no longer feel the need to pump (e.g., breasts stop feeling full)
While weaning, if your breasts start feeling full, pump just long enough to make yourself feel comfortable. Letting your breasts stay full is dangerous and puts you at risk of pain or even an infection.
Now that you have all that you need to start your breast pumping journey, don’t stress and enjoy! Always remember to relax before expressing, as this gives you maximum output. At the end of the day, stick to a schedule that works best for you and your baby, and everything will turn out fine. You got this, mama!
Life doesn’t come with a manual, it comes with a mother. We're here for you, Mama! At edamama, you get to tips, stories, and all things motherhood, opportunities for fun and learning and for your and your little bean’s essentials.