July 9, 2019
Welcome to the world of breast pumping. It can be a little intimidating to get started using this piece of equipment that you may have never even seen before, let alone operated. While there are many fantastic resources on things like how to store breastmilk, how to maintain your milk supply when pumping, and how to sanitize pump parts (check out the list at the end), there is not a whole lot of guidance around the logistics of getting started. So that’s what we’ll tackle here.
There are many reasons to use a breast pump. Pumping can be used as a tool to boost milk supply. Also, when babies struggle to latch, some moms choose to exclusively pump and feed the babies expressed milk from a bottle. For working moms, it’s a way to continue the breastfeeding relationship after going back to work. And it helps provide a way for someone else feed your child. It’s definitely not necessary for everyone, but for many moms pumping can be really helpful.
Before you start
If you’ve never used a breast pump before, it might not be clear how to actually get started. Sure, each one comes with instructions, but there’s a little more to it than which parts go where. Before you buy a breast pump, call your insurance company to see if it’s covered and how to get reimbursed. There are many different kinds of pumps, including manual vs. electric, and single vs. double. Double electrics are the most expensive, but the most efficient. Every pump should come with instructions on how to sanitize (sterilize before first use, but washing is fine after each use) and how to put it together.
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@ClaireRothstein magazine founder here 👋🏼 just sharing this image from my account which I think encapsulates @girls.girls.girls.magazine and what we stand for...👠 “A million reasons why I wanted to post this picture. Obviously #rachelmcadams looks incredible and was quite literally the dream to work with but also this shoot was about 6 months post her giving birth to her son, so between shots she was expressing/pumping as still breastfeeding. We had a mutual appreciation disagreement about whose idea it was to take this picture but I’m still sure it was hers which makes me love her even more. Breastfeeding is the most normal thing in the world, like breathing and I can’t for the life of me imagine why or how it is ever frowned upon or scared of. I don’t even think it needs explaining but just wanted to put this out there, as if it even changes one person’s perception of something so natural, so normal, so amazing then that’s great. Besides she’s wearing Versace and @bulgariofficial diamonds and is just fucking major. Big shout out to all the girls 💪🏽 #rachelmcadams for @girls.girls.girls.magazine cover shoot 📸 @clairerothstein #pleaseshare Side note: I did not look anywhere near as fabulous as this when feeding/pumping. And that’s ok too” Stylist: @alicialombardini 👠 . #girlsgirlsgirlsmag #girlsgirlsgirls #bringingbackthewoman #nogrungejustglamour #independentmagazine #printisnotdead #normalisebreastfeeding #normalizebreastfeeding #breastfeeding #life #women #versace #bulgari
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What else do you need?
In addition to your pump, you’ll need bottles and storage bags if you plan to freeze the milk. A hands-free pumping bra can be convenient, especially if you have a double electric pump. Also, a dishwasher container for all the little pieces can be helpful (you’ll need to wash all the pieces after each use). Studies have also suggested that relaxation techniques while breastfeeding and pumping may have benefits, so you can try a meditation app to listen to while pumping. Along the same vein, some moms report pumping more if they cover the bottles with baby socks, which helps to reduce anxiety over how much they are pumping.
When to start
So what about timing? There are a lot of considerations here, so the best time to start pumping will vary widely. You may have already had some conversations about introducing a bottle with your pediatrician, but if not, it’s always good to hear their thoughts. If there haven’t been any milk supply concerns, then often the recommendation is around 4 weeks. This timing tends to be a happy medium of having breastfeeding well established, but not so well established that your baby will reject a bottle (although some still do). There’s no official AAP recommendation for when to introduce a bottle, so don’t stress too much. And keep in mind you can start pumping before you introduce the bottle, and just store it for later.
How to start
When you first start pumping, it might seem confusing about how to pump without interrupting your baby’s breastfeeding schedule. I was concerned about not having enough for her next meal if I pumped in between. Luckily, your breasts are pretty good at supply and demand. But since it’s not instantaneous, you’ll probably want to pump around 30-60 minutes after nursing, which is hopefully at least an hour before you expect to nurse again. But since babies don’t always eat on schedule, don’t worry if they want to eat right after pumping. It might take a little longer, but they’ll get what they need. Also, since milk production tends to be highest in the morning, that’s a good time to start pumping.
How much to pump
Don’t worry if you don’t get much at first. You can pump a few times and combine what you get before trying to replace a breastfeeding session with a bottle of pumped milk. The amount your baby needs each session depends on age and other factors, but as a ballpark, most babies between 1-6 months will need 3-4 ounces per session. You can also give your baby a small amount in the bottle and nurse after. When you do replace a session, try to pump around the same time, and you’ll end up with a bottle for your baby’s next meal. If it’s not as much as you expect, it’s okay. Give your body time to figure it out, and make sure you’re giving it enough fuel in the form of food and water. It’s not always straightforward to start the cycle, but once you’re in it, it’ll be easier to keep it up.
Pumping is not easy, so pat yourself on the back for doing it! Great job, Mama! You’ve got this!
How much milk does my baby need?
CDC Recommendations for breast milk storage
Resources for exclusive pumping
Cleaning a breast pump