Breastfeeding may be one of the most natural things in the world, but that doesn’t make it easy!
Many new moms are surprised to discover breastfeeding isn’t always as straightforward as they thought it would be. Not only can it produce a whole range of issues from latching on difficulties to insufficient milk supply, but there’s also the issue of pumping to get to grips with.
Even stay at home moms will often need to pump breast milk at some stage. Whether it’s to feed your little one easier while you are out grocery shopping, or whether you need to leave them with a babysitter for a while; breast pumping is an essential skill you’re going to want to learn.
Here you’ll discover everything you need to know about breast pumping including what to expect, how to do it and the answers to some of the most common questions.
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What Are Breast Pumps And How Do They Work?
While it is possible to pump your breast milk by hand, it’s far easier and quicker to do it with a pump. You can choose from manual or electric style pumps, with both offering a range of pros and cons. However, electric do tend to be the most popular due to manual pumps being much more difficult to use. Ideally, you should only opt for a manual pump if you plan on pumping once a day or less frequently.
Electric pumps are available in two variations – either single or double. The double pumps are more convenient as they pump milk from both breasts at the same time, saving you a lot of time.
So how do they work? Well, it depends upon the type you choose, but with a standard electric pump, you’ll need to use a breast shield (or flange) on top of the nipple before using it. The pump will then automatically suction out the milk into a container.
If you’re pumping both breasts, you can expect it to take around 15 minutes, whereas if you were using a manual pump it would take around 45 minutes.
When And How Often Should You Pump?
The best time and frequency to pump breast milk depends upon why you are doing it.
Pumping is often recommended as a way to increase milk supply for those having difficulties producing enough milk for their baby. If you’re pumping for this reason, you should try to pump the milk after a feed. That way, the breasts will be relatively full ready for the next feed. You’ll also want to pump regularly during the day as the more you do it, the more signals will be sent to the body to produce more milk.
If you’re pumping because your little one can’t breastfeed due to latching issues, you’re also going to need to pump frequently. Aim for every 2-3 hours if you can during the day, then once throughout the night. Interestingly, the night time pumping session is one of the most important as its when the prolactin levels are at their highest (the hormone responsible for producing milk).
Will It Hurt?
One of the most common questions moms have about pumping is will it hurt? Breastfeeding is painful and this is sometimes why mothers choose to pump and bottle feed instead. But can you expect the same amount of discomfort with a pump?
The truth is, it might. Everyone’s pain levels are different and if you do a little research you’ll soon discover some mothers felt no pain at all when pumping, while for others it really hurt their nipples. There are ways you can minimize the chances of experiencing pain, which we’ll look into a little below.
For most mothers, they report more of an uncomfortable, strange sensation when they first start pumping. However, it does depend a lot on what type of pump you’re using.
Great Pumping Tips To Improve Your Experience
If you do decide pumping is the way to go, there are some excellent tips you can follow to make it a more comfortable and efficient experience.
Firstly, let’s address the potential pain and discomfort issue. If using an electric pump, starting out on the lowest setting is highly recommended. If you try the higher settings first, your nipples won’t yet be accustomed to the motion and could become sore as a result. Another thing that can make the experience more painful is if the nipple shields are too small. Some mothers have reported the discomfort they initially felt completely went away when they invested in larger nipple shields so that’s worth a try.
A manual pump can also generally reduce the discomfort, but they don’t tend to be as effective as the electric models.
Now we’ve addressed one of the biggest fears you’re likely to have, let’s look at some other great tips…
Establish A Pumping Routine – When you have a baby, everything should become as routine as possible and your pumping schedule isn’t any different. Try to pump at the same time, in the same place, every single day. This will really help to improve your milk ejaculation reflex.
Massage The Breasts Before Pumping – You’ll be surprised just how much a gentle breast massage can be at eliminating potential discomfort. It can also really help you to pump out more milk. Use the opposite hand to the breast you’re working on and start around the armpit, working your way down in small, circular motions. To finish up, use long, gentle strokes down from the chest to the areola, gradually working your way around the breast.
This is also a great tip to follow if you notice your breasts start to produce less milk during a pumping session. Just a few minutes of massage and you should notice an increase in your milk supply.
Visualizing Techniques Can Help With Letdown – You may find you’re having difficulties actually expressing milk and in this situation, visualization techniques can be helpful. Some mothers find it helpful to imagine a flowing waterfall or stream, while others find looking at a photo of their baby, or cuddling their baby if they are close by, is really effective.
Ensure You Are Putting The Pump Together Correctly – If you’re still having problems, it may be worth checking to see that you’ve assembled the pump correctly. It sounds so simple but you’d be surprised how easy it is to get it wrong. It could even be that you need to try a different pump altogether. There are lots of different models available and some are much more effective than others.
Overall, breast pumping can be a daunting experience for first time mothers, but the advice above should help to ease your concerns. It all starts with deciding which type of pump you’re going to be using and then choosing the best quality model to fit your needs.
Do you have any breast pumping tips? Share them below!