There are many reasons that a mom may be unable to breastfeed directly and needs to use a breast pump to remove her milk instead. Maybe mom has a baby with a medical issue that doesn’t allow her to nurse the baby. Maybe she went back to work full-time and needs to pump several times a day to provide milk for the babysitter. Regardless of the reason, it is important for a mom to remove milk during the times her baby would normally feed. This will help her body continue to make milk. To protect her milk supply, a mom should pump as often as her baby would nurse. Please use these helpful tips when using a breast pump for milk expression. Before you express breastmilk, be sure to wash your hands with soap and water. If soap and water are unavailable, use hand sanitizer. Also, make sure the area where you are pumping and your pump parts and bottles are clean.
- Remember: to keep making milk, the milk has to keep leaving the breast. Milk leaving the breast tells the body that a baby is using the milk and to send more! So, frequent, regular removal helps keep milk supply going and flowing. The less often milk leaves the breast, the less milk the breast will make. For an optimal milk supply, milk should be removed about 8 to 12 times every 24 hours, pumping for about 15 minutes each time.
- Sometimes it takes a few minutes before you see milk start to flow. Don’t panic, as this is normal! You should see drops and sprays within a few minutes. You should start on low suction and ease up to a comfortable tug. It may help to adjust speed and suction periodically during pumping if milk flow slows down.
- Double pumping (pumping both breasts at the same time) with a double electric breast pump takes about half the time of single pumping and most moms will get more milk with double pumping.
- Pump with comfortable size flanges and comfortable suction. You may have to try more than one option and experiment a bit with speed and suction. Whatever gets the most milk out and is comfortable is the right thing for you. Pumping should not hurt! Lubricating the flanges with a small dollop of nipple cream before pumping decreases friction and increases comfort.
- Take time to massage the breasts for a minute or two before pumping. Gentle, circular massage prior to pumping stimulates the breast to release more milk.
- It can also help to massage the breast during pumping to help stimulate milk release and flow. You might consider purchasing a “hands free” pumping bra or bustier. Watch the sprays of milk and adjust your hand position to where the milk flows most easily.
- Look at a picture of your baby while pumping or think about your baby to help the milk let down.
- Relax your shoulders and do neck rolls while pumping, or listen to relaxing music.
- Work in consultation with a qualified lactation consultant if you have difficulty expressing milk or finding a pumping option that is comfortable for you.
If you need advice from a lactation consultant, The Women’s Hospital 24/7 lactation staff is here to help. Contact us at 812-842-4239 with any questions or concerns or even if you are just needing reassurance!