Breastfeeding and pumping breast milk go hand-in-hand. I don’t know if there’s any mom who wouldn’t benefit from using a breast pump to help feed her preemie, bring in her milk, keep up her supply, or store milk for bottle feeding.
Maybe a mom who isn’t going back to work or doesn’t need a stash…
But for those of you set on pumping, whatever your reason, let’s talk about expressing breast milk!
We’ll talk how to prepare for pumping, how to get started, what supplies you’ll need and how to do it right so that you and baby stay healthy and happy.
We’ll even talk about do’s and don’ts – yes, there are things you’ll want to avoid doing – and tips for making this as easy as possible so that it’s not something you dread doing.
There really isn’t much to it and you certainly don’t need to stress. 🙂
✅ If you’re in a hurry:
Choosing the Right Breast Pump
✅ DO weigh the pros and cons of – and check reviews for – manual pumps vs. battery operated pumps vs. electric pumps
✅ DO consider purchasing a closed system breast pump like this one.
❌ DON’T plan on or stress over building a huge freezer stash – it’s unnecessary to have a stockpile!
❌ Never buy a pre-owned pump designed for single users.
The good news is that if you’re in the market for a breast pump, your insurance might foot the bill. So be sure to check that out before you invest in a purchase. I also talk about other ways you can save on the cost of a pump…keep reading!
Renting vs. Buying a Breast Pump
Another early choice you need to make is whether to rent a pump or buy one. You’ll need to consider why you’re breastfeeding and pumping, where you’ll pump, when you’ll pump, how you’ll pump, and what your budget is.
Renting a pump might be the best option for you if this is something you’ll be doing short-term, say 6 months or less, and for one baby.
Renting is not sharing. If you are considering sharing a pump or have been given one, think twice; do so only with a pump designed for multiple users and purchase a new accessories kit that includes a milk container, breast shield, and tubing.
Whether renting or sharing, multi-user pumps are designed to be sanitary for more than one user. Breast milk never touches working parts of the pump that are shared.
You can look into renting a breast pump from an authorized provider like your hospital, Lactation Consultant, a medical supply, or your doctor can refer you to the right source.
If you’ll be breastfeeding and pumping for longer than 6 months and intend to use your pump for more than one child, purchasing your own breast pump is the smarter choice.
You can start by researching your options for getting a free or reduced-price pump.
Your insurance might completely cover the cost of a new breast pump.
The WIC program is another resource to check out – if you qualify for the program, your local agency might supply you with breastfeeding support aids like a pump, shields, etc.
You can also check with your state’s health department and if you’re receiving government healthcare, you might have access to a free breast pump and other postnatal/newborn care resources.
Another option for not paying for a breast pump out of pocket is to put one on your baby registry! You can see the breast pump I added to my baby registry here!
✅ Closed System or ❌ Open System Pump?
Closed or open system? And what’s the difference?
In my research, I’ve learned that it’s important to use a closed breast pump system.
It’s about sanitation and hygiene.
A closed system is designed to keep all expressed milk away from the motor by filtering your breast milk through the pump in a way that keeps your milk – and the pump itself – free from impurities.
Because of this, there’s less chance of mold and infectious particles mucking up your breast pump.
Closed system pumps are more hygienic and safe to use for years with proper maintenance and cleaning.
In short, an open system pump does not have safeguards in place to keep breast milk away from the motor. This can result in mold developing in the tubing and motor and there is no definite, 100% way to clean and disinfect an open system breast pump.
Impurities can contaminate your pump and your milk, infectious particles can survive a long time, and should you get thrush, you can transfer it to your pump, which may not be cleaned up sufficiently. The last thing you want is lingering yeast that can be transferred to your little one!
What About a Manual Breast Pump?
A manual breast pump is good if you don’t need to build up and store your milk – let’s say you just want to have a little bit of backup breast milk.
A manual pump is also good if you’re not going to breastfeed anymore and just need to relieve the pressure on your breasts as they dry up.
But if you’re exclusively pumping and bottle feeding or if you are working and need to bottle feed breast milk while you’re away, a battery-operated or electric pump is definitely the better investment.
How to Pump Breast Milk
Once you deliver Baby, you’ll want to wait 6 weeks before you begin pumping, which is the time it takes for your supply to regulate. During this time, you want to be feeding on-demand and enjoying the time you’re spending with your little one.
Breastfeeding and pumping during these early days can be tough, so don’t make too many demands on yourself – the laundry and housecleaning can wait!
And when you’re ready, it’s easy enough to start using your breast pump!
How to Use Your Breast Pump:
- Center breast in flange
- Turn on power, starting with short, quick pulses
- Switch to longer, deeper suction when your milk starts flowing; keep pressure comfortable and not painful
- Collect breast milk for 10-20 minutes max on each breast
- If you need help getting the milk flowing, a picture of your baby and self breast massage can help
Breastfeeding and Pumping…When You’re Away From Your Baby:
- Nurse with Baby before leaving for the day
- Pump every 2-4 hours while away
- Nurse Baby again when you get home
When to Start Pumping Breast Milk
If you’ll be going back to work at 6 weeks, you can begin pumping at 4.5 weeks in preparation.
And if you’re going back to work later on, just plan to start pumping 2 weeks before you return, 3 times a day in-between feedings.
How Often Should I Pump?
Don’t pump right before nursing or immediately after; the best time to pump is in-between feedings.
When you’re away from your baby, pump every 2-4 hours, collecting 1 – 1.5 ounces of breast milk for every hour you’ll be away.
How to Store Your Breast Milk
Collect breast milk in the collection container of your choice – bottle, cup, or storage bag that’s made for breast milk.
Seal and label with the date you expressed and, if you’re delivering to a caregiver, your child’s name.
When collecting your milk, you can add the fresh breast milk to refrigerated milk you’ve already collected but do not add fresh milk to breast milk that’s already been frozen.
Do not save used breast milk for another feeding.
Defrost a container of frozen breast milk in the refrigerator or place it in a bowl of warm water and swirl – previously frozen breast milk cannot be refrozen.
* Store Breast Milk For:
- 6-8 hours on the counter top
- 24 hours in an insulated cooler with ice packs
- 5 days in the refrigerator
- 2 weeks in the freezer compartment or a single-door refrigerator
- 3-6 months in the freezer compartment of a refrigerator with separate doors
- 6-12 months in a deep freezer
Breast Pump Care and Cleaning
The very first thing to do to learn how to clean and care for your breast pump is to read the manufacturer’s instructions, which will tell you exactly how your breast pump needs to be cleaned.
You won’t need to do a real deep clean between each feeding.
And though some sources say you can simply store used parts in a plastic baggie from one use to the next, there are new guidelines from the CDC that suggest it’s better to wash pump parts between each use and frequently sterilize.
Care and Cleaning Tips:
- Wash hands before each use.
- After pumping, close bottle or seal breast milk storage bag and label with name, date, and time; refrigerate, store in a cooler with ice packs or freeze.
- Disassemble tubing and all parts that came into contact with breast milk.
- Rinse pump parts under warm, running water; do not place parts in sink to sit or soak.
- Clean parts by hand washing or by using the hot water/heated dry or sanitize setting on your dishwasher
- If hand washing, use a dedicated scrub brush and wash basin and air dry parts on a clean, dry towel after each wash
- For extra care, sanitize your pump parts, wash basin, and scrub brush daily. It’s definitely more work! For ease and time-saving, check out this countertop sterilizer for bottles and breast pump parts!
- Inspect your breast pump daily to make sure it’s clean and free from mold or build-up and if your tubing begins to look cloudy, it’s time to replace it.
Breastfeeding and Pumping Breast Milk – Troubleshooting
It’s very important to contact a professional Lactation Consultant if you’re having problems with breastfeeding and pumping.
I cannot stress this enough.
Getting advice from your doctor, a trusted friend, a nurse, a WIC counselor, or even me is not enough! If you suspect low milk supply, you’re experiencing a bad latch, pain, if your little one is losing or not gaining weight, or any other challenge is preventing you and your baby from having a happy, pleasant breastfeeding and pumping experience, get help by contacting a local International Board Certified Lactation Consultant.
Take heart that – for most mothers – supply is fine and that most problems can be solved by ensuring you have a correct latch and are nursing on-demand.
Otherwise, you can get one-on-one specialized help.
==> Are you thinking about pumping? Will you be pumping at work? Let me know what your plans are and drop any questions or insights here in the comments!