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All about breast pumping

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What is breast pumping?


It is method where you can use a manual or electric pumps to get the milk out the lactating breast with the help of vacuum creation mechanism.

When to start pumping milk?

• Generally, if everything is fine with the baby and the mother, breast pumping is advisable to be started off after 8 weeks.

• In case the baby is a premature or admitted in the NICU, is away from the mother then it is advisable to start immediately right after delivery to initiate the suckling effect and help in production of milk.

• If there is no/poor milk supply, it is best to start pumping milk and accumulate enough amount for providing milk to the baby. This prevents weight loss in babies since they wouldn’t have to suckle too hard and would get good quantity of milk for their feeds.

• When the mother has to go back to work , it is the best option to start pumping and storing the milk for the baby.

Which Pump to get?

Its best to invest into a good pump even if its expensive. Compromising on investing on good pump could leave you with a nightmare experience. A poor plastic pump may be associated with a painful experience would make you want to skip the pumping sessions, which we don’t want at any cost !

The more expensive ones have better options to make your pumping experience painless and efficient and gives you options to pump both of your breast at the same time with different customizable massage and suction levels, and come with different speed settings as well.

There are options of buying an electric one or a manual pump. Its advisable to buy electric double pump (Medela) since it is highly efficient and helps you achieve your pumping goals with minimal efforts from your end.They help with stimulation of the milk producing hormones and in a good let down/milk flow.

It is better to keep a manual one handy for times of need. There are quite affordable , easy to carry and fit best if they have to be used once or twice due to unavoidable reasons like some issues with the electric pump or its parts.

Know about the Pump and more

The best solution for getting your pump to work is to read the manual provided with the machine. All breast pump available in the market largely some what work in the same way but have few minor changes in their settings and parts. It is very cliché but the solution is to read the manual or watch a video about setting up and using the machine. All the breast pump companies have the videos on their website.

Then the main thing is choosing the right personal fit breast shields. These are made out of plastic (somewhat resemble like a funnel). It is very important to make sure that they fit you properly otherwise it may cause a break in the creation of vacuum suction or could lead to a painful experience.

The size of the shields doesn’t depend upon the breast size instead depends upon the size of the nipple. It should be able to fit in the entire nipple and cover the complete areola (dark part around the nipple) for a good suction and let down process. A proper fitted shield helps in achieving complete drainage of the breast and collecting a good volume of milk .

If breast shield is small, the nipple starts rubbing against the plastic causing a painful experience which prevents you from having a good let down/ milk flow and may also cause cracking or a painful nipple.

Then if the breast shields are too big then there will be a poor suction mechanism causing incomplete emptying of the breast and may cause bruising of the areola.

In a breast pumping kit you are generally provided with a machine(which has all the settings and creates the suction), breast shields of different sizes, membranes (placed between the shields and the bottle) , a plastic connecting tube, collecting milk bottles and a cooler bag.

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Let’s take a deep breathe and relax before we get to the pumping

• Relaxation and a happy mind will help your milk flow freely. It is important to avoid stressing over breastfeeding or the pumping process. You need to to relaxed and think about your little one’s beautiful face.

• You can try listening to calming music (audio galactogogue).

• Choose a favourite area where you can sit and pump peacefully.

• Be comfortably seated with a good back rest.

• Drink enough water, don’t let yourself dehydrate.

• You can watch something on the TV or browse through your social media apps on your mobile, whatever relaxes you and takes the stress of your mind.

• Prepare a small snack as you might get hungry.

• Do make sure you are not tired or sleep deprived, all this reflects on the milk production. Sleep when your baby is sleeping, get that nap don’t miss on it !

• You can keep your baby with you or keep his picture with you for a good let down/ stimulation of milk production.

• If breast appear tender use warm washcloths and use the heat over the breast for a easy flow of milk.

• Make sure the membranes, connecting tubes, breast shields and bottles are clean and sterilised before using them.

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Now that you are all set, let’s start pumping.

Begin with cleans hands, breast shields and bottles. Make sure the connecting tube has no water droplets in it.

Place the breast shields/ funnels over the breast, covering the entire areola and with the nipple inside the opening of the shield. You can pump both breast together and use pumping bras for it (they hold the bottles along with the breast shield) to have a hands-free experience! (

Then put your pump on massage mode for the starting 1-2 mins and follow it up with slow suction and then increase the speed over the 15-20 minutes of breast pumping. If you are using manual pump, give your breast a gentle massage and then fix on the breast shield and start pumping with lesser pumps/minute and increase the intensity (more number of pumps per minute) over the whole pumping period.

Once you are finished with your session, remove the breast shield and tightly close the milk bottle and keep it aside (6 hours at room temperature, 8 days at 32-39oF, 4-6 months while using a refrigerator style freezer and 12 months at 0oF). Store the milk in storage bags (Medela) with time and date marked on them. Its better to pour milk in the storage bags according to requirement of your baby. Say, your baby is taking 3-4 ounces of milk then it is better to make storage bags with that same amount of milk in it because if you store the entire 8-10 ounces of expressed milk (could be more ) in single bag then later when you plan to thaw the milk you will have to thaw the entire bag. You will have to discard the remaining milk in the bag which is not consumed by your baby because you cannot refrigerator thawed milk.

To thaw the milk, use indirect heat like put it under warm running water or keep it in a vessel filled with warm water. Don’t use boiling water or microwave to thaw the frozen breast milk. Don’t leave it to defrost at room temperature. Thawed milk left at room temperature should be consumed within 2 hours or else you will have to discard/throw it.

Clean the breast pump and accessories .Sanitize and store properly for the next sessions.(give hyperlink of cleaning write up)

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How much and for how long should you pump?

For the first 2 months, start off pumping every 2 hours for 15-20 minutes.

Then for 3-4 months, pump every 2.5- 3.5 hours for 15-20 mins.

For 4-6 months, you may start pumping every 3.5-4.5 hours for 15-20 mins.

Remember to pump at night, don’t skip it because it’s the best time to stimulate your hormones for good production of milk.

There should be 10-12 sessions of pumping in 24 hours. Don’t skip your pumping sessions as it will decrease your milk production. Time it with your baby’s feeding cycle.

Be realistic and go easy on yourself

With changing lifestyle and environment, the cost is being paid by our body and health. There has been a significant increase in number of mothers with low milk supply or no supply at all.

Breast milk is one of the nature’s most beautiful way of bonding and providing our little ones all the dietary nutrients required and helps in bonding. Its nature’s customized way of providing what’s the best our baby.

There are multiple reasons especially health issues that affect the amount of milk production. Its better to not stress about it since that will add to the issue and alter your milk production.

You might be able to pump 0.5 to 1 ounce in the starting week/ right after delivery and gradually you build up on the amount. If you are not able to achieve 8 ounces in every pumping session, don’t be sadden because its important to keep realistic goals. Its okay to use formula feeds if you don’t have sufficient milk supply (NO Judging and you are still going to be an awesome Mom).

Lets help you lactate better

• One can try different types of galactagogues like oatmeal cookies or simple oatmeal, fenugreek seeds and glass of milk in the early morning

• Try making a lactation smoothie with few bananas, strawberries or use mixed berries, almond milk, oats and flax or chia seeds. You can add kale and almond/peanut butter too in the smoothie, they provide the fibre, protein and good fat ! You can also use oatmeal milk or falxseed milk instead of almond milk. ( give hyperlink to lactation smoothies)

• Drink loads of water. Maximum percentage of your body and the breast milk is water. Chug chug !!

• Try lactogenic granules, they have shown to help in increasing the milk production.

• Cut down on caffeine

• Message your breast and try latching the baby again and again. Don’t give up easily, you will get there.

• Even if baby cant suckle properly, let the baby try and then pump out the rest of the breast milk.

• Sometimes prescription medicines (domperidone) are used to assist with increasing milk supply; consultant with your doctor and discuss about your health issues before taking them.


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