Pumping breastmilk is a great way to continue the breastfeeding relationship between an infant and his mother even without the mom being physically present to nurse her baby 24/7. It ensures that the baby still receives the best nourishment ever, with breastmilk being the perfect infant food.
The decision to regularly pump breastmilk though is a commitment a mom has to make as long as she intends to nurse her baby. And this is the same reason why a mother should gather as much information as she can about pumping breastmilk to help ensure her level of breastmilk supply, for her to express enough milk for her child, and build a breast milk stash if she wants to, and to safely store and serve breast milk for her baby’s consumption.
This guide aims to provide mothers much needed information in pumping breastmilk, citing highly acclaimed sources and experts in the field. We will be discussing the various reasons for breastfeeding, how to choose the right breast pump vis-à-vis breastfeeding purpose, what are the equipment and supplies needed in regularly pumping breastmilk, sample of a breast pumping schedule, as well as safety tips in pumping, storing and feeding with breastmilk.
Reasons for expressing breastmilk
There are a host of reasons why a mom would need to pump milk. The most common being to have a continuous nursing relationship with the baby even without the mother being physically with the nursling 100% of the time. Below are the reasons for having to pump breast milk:
Mom has to leave the baby for a period of time
Returning to work outside the home, or needing to run an errand or two may prompt the need to express milk, granting the mom has someone to leave her nursling with. Apart from pumping milk that will be left for the child, the mother also has to pump every three hours that she is away from her baby, to maintain her milk supply.
Baby is unable to directly latch because of a physical condition
Premature infants, infant with special physical or developmental needs, and other conditions like cleft palate may affect the baby’s ability to directly latch from his mom. The mother in turn needs to express milk to be fed to her child, and at the same time to ensure continuous milk supply.
Mom cannot directly feed the baby because of an illness or physical condition
A mom’s physical condition may also prevent her from directly feeding her child. Having an over-active letdown is one condition that will make it hard for a nursling to directly latch. And while this is being corrected, it is best that the mom express milk for her child.
To relieve engorgement
Relieving engorgement is also another common reason for having to pump milk. This however should not be overdone, as it would result to an oversupply, causing engorgement all the more. This may be done during the start of the breastfeeding journey, or sometimes during the weaning process.
To help increase milk supply
Pumping milk to increase supply is one technique often read in breastfeeding books. “Power Pumping” for example is one way to increase milk supply especially for those who regularly pump milk or has to build up a milk stash. This is by Pumping for twenty minutes, resting for twenty minutes, pumping for another ten minutes, and then resting for another ten, then pumping again, to stimulate milk production. This procedure shall be done three times a day, for three straight days. So the answer to the question, “does pumping produce more milk?” is definitely a “Yes!”
To donate to other babies
Donating to other babies who may specifically need breastmilk is also another great reason to pump breast milk. Usually, parents of the child in need may ask their nursing friends for expressed milk, or buy some from the milk bank. The milk bank on the other hand, regularly asks for donation from nursing moms, and the amount that they charge for those buying from them usually represents the screening and pasteurization charges.
Choosing the right breast pump
Matching the appropriate breast pump for the reason for expressing milk is critical in having a successful pumping career, so to speak. We enumerated below the various types of breast pump, and what purpose it is most appropriate for:
- Manual Pump – Manual pump is most appropriate for occasional pumping especially for a stay-at-home mom who hardly leaves the house without her nursling in tow. It is also great for relieving engorgement. Manual pumps are the most inexpensive pump in the market, and is widely available, It however cannot be used to maintain supply, and will be uncomfortable to use every three hours in an office setting.
- Single Electric Pump – Is great as a back-up pump for the regular breastmilk pumping momma. Single electric pumps are usually the most inexpensive type of electric pump, but it cannot maintain milk supply, and can be time consuming for regular use in the office setting because it can only express milk from one breast at a time.
- Double electric pump – As long as it is sourced from a reputable brand, then a double electric pump is the best for regular office use. Apart from being efficient and durable enough to be used every three hours, it can also help maintain milk supply, and efficiently express milk for the baby within a good level of time frame. It is also portable and usually comes with a kit.
- Battery-Operated Pump – This type of breast pump is best for back-up purposes. While most electric pumps can be used with batteries, there still are battery operated pumps in the market for when the mom has to be mobile or during emergency situations. It cannot however efficiently express milk, and at the same time cannot maintain m ilk supply.
- Hospital-Grade Pump – Is the best and most efficient pump among all types of breast pump. It is also the most expensive, as it can be used by multiple mothers provided they have their own breastfeeding kits like tubing, flanges etc. The usual hospital-grade pump is not really portable, but there are now emerging breast pump brands that have almost the same hospital grade suction levels, with better portability.
What you will need to start pumping milk
So you have decided to start pumping milk, what shall you need? Most dual electric pumps in the market have a variant that comes with a tote that carries the pump, a cooling bag with reusable gel ice packs, bottles that can be used to store expressed milk, plus other accessories.
If the pump that you have purchased, or was furnished to you by the insurance company did not come with such a tote, then it will be best to have the items on the list below:
- Milk storage bottles – This is where you will be storing the milk for the day. It may not be efficient to immediately transfer the pumped milk unto storage bags while transporting it because it may leak. One may use ordinary BPA-Free bottles with lid, the bottles that came with the pump, or simply the bottles that your child uses.
- Breastmilk Storage Bags – Are important for an efficient freezing and milk storage system. Most have a surface that the mom can directly write on for labelling purposes.
- Marker – This is very important to ensure the safety of the baby, because you would not want to serve breastmilk that has been pumped way past the six month mark, or you would not want to bring to the daycare an unnamed breast milk storage bag for the teacher to serve to your child.
- Extra Iced Gel Packs – Are very important in storing and transporting breastmilk for the day. Have at least two sets rotating in the freezer.
- Allotted freezer space – You do not need a deep freezer or an extra freezer to start with pumping milk. All you need is a freezer space that will be allotted for your milk stash. If your freezer is too small to hold your food and your baby’s pump milk then reconsider buying a spacious one, because if you will be building a stash, freezer space will be very important to you.
- Carry On Tote – This one will be needed to carry your pump, its accessories, and your cooler.
- Extra Accessories – If you will need an extra pumping kit so that you will not be harassed into hot washing the your kit every night or morning and preparing your pumping kit for the next day, then buy an extra kit for your sanity. Otherwise just buy as needed.
- Feeding cups or bottles – Whatever you prefer, the person taking care of your child has to have a vessel to use in feeding your child.
- Cooler Bag – No it does not have to be specifically for breastmilk because there isn’t one. A generic high quality cooler that can keep the expressed milk cool for 12-18 hours together with an iced pack is enough. Just make sure it is not too big nor too small for your bottles.
- Cleaning materials – Have a separate cleaning material like sponge and cleanser for your breast pump accessories. Some may also see the need for special cleaners from their pump manufacturers or convenience products like a microwavable cleaning bag, or pump wipes, but this will all depend on how you plan to clean your pump parts.
Sample Breastfeeding and Pumping schedule
Of a working mother
A working mother usually nurses before she goes off to work or day care drop off. So as a sample breastfeeding schedule let us assume that the mom has to be at work by 8 in the morning chances are her last nursing session is at six in the morning or latest at seven. This will just be in time for her next feeding session with her baby which is usually as soon as they get reunited.
Of a mother building up a milk stash
If a mother who is about to return to work wants to build a stash, she could do so after the six-week mark. This is actually the response to the eternal question of new moms – “when to pump while breastfeeding newborn?” This so that the risk of having an over-supply will be relatively low.
Once the baby already sleeps three-to five hour stretches, the mom can already pump on the 2-2.5 hour mark at midnight or dawn.
This so that the milk supply will be maintained and at the same time the milk that was meant to be ingested by the baby if he had been awake for that feeding, will be expressed and will be used to build up a milk stash. As for the question, “when to pump if breastfeeding every 2 hours,” the answer is to choose two to three feeding sessions, and pump every after that feeding session to stimulate milk supply.
Of a mother trying to produce more milk
Power pumping is one of the best ways to produce more milk. New moms ask, “How often should I pump to increase milk supply?” and to this question, experienced moms would reply “any chance you would get after the baby is full.” The website Kelly Mom describes it as follows: “Some moms find it helpful to do a 2-3 day long power pump every couple of weeks to “super charge” their milk supply.
This is simply a nursing vacation with pumping added in. On these days, get lots of rest, nurse very frequently and pump after as many nursing sessions as possible.” Read the rest of the explanation here. Some breastfeeding advocates meantime define “Power Pumping” as pumping for 20 minutes, resting for another twenty minutes, and then pumping for ten minutes, resting for another ten minutes, then pumping again for ten minutes.
The mom has to have at least three sessions throughout the day for three straight days. As for “how to start pumping while still breastfeeding,” the answer could be as soon as the baby is done and seems full, or possibly simultaneously pump the other one, while the baby is nursing from the other breast.
Breastfeeding and pumping at the same time, after all is one of the best ways to boost milk supply.
General Tips in Pumping Breastmilk
- Avoid getting stressed. Whether it is pumping or supply related, or simply any other random stressor in one’s life, stress can definitely affect a lactating mom’s let-down reflex and supply. Try to relax, and get as much rest as you can. Eat healthy food and stay hydrated.
- Always consider your equipment as an investment. Breast pumps, especially when purchased out of pocket, is definitely a huge one-time expense. In spite of this, never scrimp on the quality of the breast pump that you buy because it is just a one-time expense that will definitely be worth it for your child health-wise. Besides, this one-time expense is no comparison to the monthly expenses of buying formula milk, so spend on a hard earned pump that can efficiently express milk and help you maintain your milk supply.
- Latch on when with you are with your baby. Barring any physical conditions that would prevent direct latching, always take the opportunity to directly breastfeed your nursling. This is because only a baby can efficiently empty the breast giving the brain a signal to produce more milk. The pump, no matter how powerful it is, will not be able to empty the mother’s breast the way a nursling can do. SO latch on, and continue that breastfeeding relationship, while ensuring a stable milk supply.
- Safety First. Always ensure the cleanliness of your hands, your equipment, and your storage kits when pumping milk for your child. Make sure as well that the milk is safely stored, and that safety guidelines are observed in feeding the expressed milk to the baby.
- If you encounter trouble, consult an expert. There are tons of breastfeeding literature over the internet, and a lot of social media forums dedicated to it. Make sure that you are reading breastfeeding information coming from reputable sources, and that you are in the right Facebook group that will help you through your nursing relationship with your child. Should you encounter any concerns while breastfeeding, do not think twice about getting in touch with a lactation consultant (LC), or at the very least a breastfeeding counselor. It is unfortunate though that not all pediatricians are experts when it comes to breastfeeding so you may want to find a La Leche League in your area who can refer you to a counselor or an LC.
Breastmilk Storage Tips
One of the most important aspects of expressing breastmilk is the way it is stored. It may sound too scientific at first or overwhelming for moms, but once they get the hang of it (and post one on the refrigerator door), it will be a breeze.
Ask Dr. Sears has simplified storage safety tips as follows. The chart originally appeared in the Ask Dr. Sears’ website, specifically in this link.
Guidelines for Storing Breast Milk
These guidelines are for mothers who are expressing milk for a full-term healthy baby. Use clean containers, and wash your hands with soap and water before expressing. or pumping. When providing milk for a baby who is seriously ill and/or hospitalized, check with healthcare providers for instructions.
Storage temperature (degrees Fahrenheit)
Storage temperature (degrees Centigrade)
At room temperature
60 degrees F
15 degrees C
At room temperature
66-72 degrees F
19-22 degrees C
At room temperature
79 degrees F
25 degrees C
In a refrigerator
32-39 degrees F
0-4 degrees C
In a freezer compartment inside a refrigerator
In a self-contained freezer unit of a refrigerator
In a separate deep freeze with a constant temperature
0 degrees F
-19 degrees C
6 months or longer
Type of Milk
Save or Dump?
Milk remaining in the bottle that has been offered to baby
Use for next feeding, otherwise discard.
Bacteria from the baby’s mouth may have entered the milk during the feeding. This may lead to bacterial contamination if it sets too long (though as yet there is no research available).
Milk that has been thawed
Save in the refrigerator for 24 hours after thawing, then discard. Do not refreeze.
Milk that has been frozen has lost some of the immune properties that inhibit bacterial growth in fresh refrigerated milk.
Milk that has been kept in the refrigerator for eight days
Transfer to storage in the freezer, or discard.
Bacterial growth is not a problem, but milk sometimes picks up odors or flavors from the refrigerator or the container.
Pumping breast milk is one of the many sacrifices a mom can do for her child. Find out relevant information on it to be guided accordingly, and pass on the knowledge to a fellow pumping mom.