Whether you're a new mom or a seasoned parenting pro, breastfeeding
often comes with its fair share of questions. Here are answers to some common queries
that mothers — new and veteran — may have.
When can I start pumping my breast milk?
Some women who breastfeed start pumping soon after their baby is born to build
up their milk supply if they’re not producing enough milk. This also can be
helpful if a mom wants to store milk in the freezer for when she returns to work.
But it's a good idea to wait to introduce a bottle to your baby. Some experts feel
that pumping and giving bottles too early — before a baby is used to breastfeeding
— might cause "nipple confusion," leading a baby to decide that the
bottle is the quicker, better option than the breast. While some babies have this
confusion, others have no problem moving between a bottle and the breast.
If you're returning to work after maternity leave, try to start pumping a couple
of weeks beforehand. If you wait until the day before you go back to work, you may
be frustrated to find that your body doesn't respond to the pump, which isn't nearly
as cute and cuddly as your baby. In fact, it may take some practice and patience before
you're able to produce enough milk without your baby's help. It also may take time
for your baby to get used to taking a bottle.
Depending on how heavy their milk flow is, some women can fill a bottle in one
pumping session, while others may need to pump two or three times (and sometimes more)
to get a full bottle.
Though pumping might be frustrating at first, it can help you get some much-needed
rest and let your partner and other family members bond with and feed the baby.
It also allows you to continue to provide breast milk for your baby when you return
to work or are away.
What type of pump is best?
You can buy or rent a breast pump from lactation consultants, hospitals, retail
stores, and online. A lactation consultant will give you detailed instructions and
be there for you if you have difficulty.
Which kind of breast pump to use is up to you. Here's what's available:
Manual pumps. Manual (or hand-operated) pumps are smaller than
electric pumps and more discreet. They are cheaper than electric pumps (manuals
are usually under $50, whereas electric models can cost hundreds of dollars). A manual
pump is fine for occasional pumping, but usually not for returning to work because many
moms find that the effort required for manual pumps is too much and it takes too long
to draw out milk.
Electric pumps. Despite their expense, electric (or automatic)
pumps can be easier to use than manual ones because they don't require much physical
effort. And many models let you pump both breasts at once, which is a real time-saver
and may increase your milk supply.
Some women find the noise of the electric
pumps to be a little much (especially if you're pumping at work or away from home).
And though they often come in easy-to-carry bags (such as backpacks or arm bags),
the weight and bulk can be a bit cumbersome.
Also keep in mind where
you might be using the pump. Some electric pumps can be plugged in or battery-operated;
others can't. So, unless you want to have to find a comfortable spot and
an electrical outlet every time, you might want one that offers both options. It's
also important to consider a back-up method, such as a battery-operated or manual
pump, in case of a power outage.
Find out which type of pump (if any) your insurance will help pay for. If
you don't have the money to buy a pump or don't receive one as a gift, contact the
governmental organization Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) to find out about their
pump program and to see if you qualify.
Are used pumps OK?
Doctors, lactation consultants, and pump manufacturers will tell you that
it's not a good idea to borrow or buy someone else's used pump. This is because
bacteria and viruses from the previous owner can get trapped inside the pump. They
are potentially hazardous to your baby's health, even with thorough and repeated sterilization
Some pumps, though, are designed to decrease the risk of contamination between
users and are meant for multiple users, each with their own accessory kit.
How can I make pumping easier?
As with nursing, it's important to be comfortable when pumping (which doesn't always
seem possible while you're attached to a machine). It can be hard, especially at first,
for your body (and your mind) to get used to producing milk without
your baby's help.
Often, women's milk will "let down" (or start to be released)
when they see or hear their babies cry. So, when faced with an object instead of the
welcoming face of your little one, you may find it hard to pump.
If you're having trouble with let-down, it could be helpful to hold something that
reminds you of your baby or has your baby's scent, like a picture, video on your phone,
blanket, or piece of clothing. Your let-down also can be affected if you're frustrated,
embarrassed, or rushed. Try relaxing in a comfortable chair or couch and don't stress
out too much about producing enough milk.
If your breast just doesn't seem to fit the pump correctly, the pump may come with
different sized flanges or you can buy a smaller or larger flange to place over your
breast. (The flange is the plastic cup that goes over the nipple and areola when you
Also, just like when you're nursing, it's important to place the breast shield
of the pump correctly over your breast, covering your nipple and areola (not just
the tip of your nipple), and getting a good seal. If you place the pump incorrectly,
it can be uncomfortable and you'll be much less likely to get the milk you need. And
if you're using an electric breast pump, make sure to adjust the speed and suction
to the level that's comfortable for you to help prevent unnecessary discomfort.
Where can I pump at work?
If you're pumping at work, try to find a discreet and comfortable place to do it.
Many companies offer their employees pumping and nursing areas. If yours doesn't,
ask your supervisor or the human resources department about an office or other
private area that might be suitable. Employers are required by law to provide an appropriate
area (that's not a bathroom) for employees to pump breast milk and reasonable time
to do so.
As a last resort, if you have to pump in a bathroom, find a large one with a comfortable
chair and some type of privacy barrier.