Are you a new momma having trouble making breastmilk for your baby or want to bottle up more for your supply?
Here’s your ultimate breast pump guide to help you out!
When I was a new mom I had to learn on the fly, so hopefully my advice can save you and your family a struggle.
Producing breastmilk isn’t the same for all new mothers. Factors like too much milk, fat accumulated in your tissues, or insufficient pumping or massaging can affect the flow of milk.
That’s why breast pumps exist, to help stimulate your breast and produce more milk for your infant. They have come a long way through these years, from manual pumps to mechanical ones. So you now have more options to choose from. 2022 technology is head and shoulders above that from just a decade or two ago, so put it to use.
But how will you choose which one fits you the best? This article will help you precisely with these concerns and others related to pumping compared to breastfeeding.
Table of Contents
- Breastfeeding Vs Breast Pumps
- When Should You Consider Breast Pumps
- Types of Breast Pumps
- How To Choose The Best Breast Pump
- How To Use A Breast Pump
- Milk Supply Enhancing Techniques
- Related Articles
Breastfeeding Vs Breast Pumps
You may have read about the numerous benefits of breastfeeding your baby including benefits for your infant’s health, your milk production, and much more. And this has made you decide that you only want to breastfeed your baby.
But what about pumping?
Should you just breastfeed your baby or pump as well?
Is pumping as effective as breastfeeding?
If you decide to feed your baby pumped milk exclusively, will that be okay?
What are the cons?
How about doing mixed pumping?
In this section, we will look at what exclusive pumping can do and its benefits and compare exclusive pumping with mixed pumping.
- Exclusive Pumping
Babies have their own schedule for sleeping and feeding, which may not always match your timings. What if you’re out in a public place with your infant and it gets hungry? You may not be able to feed them milk if you hesitate to breastfeed in public or if there isn’t a breastfeeding safe place.
Exclusively pumping your breast milk will allow you to keep the supply at hand wherever you are. You can feed your baby at any time, as well. And if you’re a working mom, you can keep some supplies bottled up in the refrigerator so that someone can feed your infant.
Exclusive pumping can help you a lot if you feel pain while breastfeeding, if your baby has a deformity on the lips, or if your infant is premature and hasn’t developed the natural suckling action yet. All of these are possible.
- Exclusive Breastfeeding
Usually, doctors recommend breastfeeding babies exclusively for their first six months. This has benefits for both the mother and baby, not just healthwise, but also milk-wise. However, one con to this can be actually being able to do this every two hours. People have to work. Things come up. No one should judge if you choose not to breastfeed.
- Benefits for Babies
Mostly, babies naturally have the ability to latch on to their mother for lactation. With exclusive breastfeeding, you can help your baby improve their suckling so that they can get more milk, which means more benefits.
During lactation, you and your infant are in eye contact and skin-to-skin contact. This helps your baby feel more secure with you and bond better. Me and my kids briefly had some breast feeding time, but I was not able to feed nearly as long as some mothers.
The CDC is a great government source for research information and provide in depth research on the benefits of breast milk.
- Benefits for Mothers
Your baby’s suckling can sometimes be more helpful than a pump, especially when you need to break down the excess colostrum. Besides, the more your baby lactates on your breasts, the more your milk production and milk flow will improve.
Exclusively breastfeeding your baby has other benefits as well. Because it releases oxytocin in both you and the baby, you both will bond stronger. It also helps to reduce uterine bleeding after giving blood and helps your uterus get back to its previous size as much as possible.
However, exclusively breastfeeding may not be helpful sometimes. Sometimes, when your baby gets hungry in the middle of the night, you may not be able to supply milk instantly. You’ll need time to massage and prepare yourself for lactation in case you have a low flow of milk.
- Mixed Pumping
Sometimes, you may not find it practical always to pump your milk and have to wash many extra parts. Also, in some cases, breast pumps may not achieve what your baby’s suckling motion can. In cases like these, using both breastfeeding and breast pumping is the best option.
This is also the most suitable method for working moms. If you’re a working mom, you can nurse your baby before going to work and fill up bottles of your milk for your baby before you head off for your work. If you have to run errands without taking your baby, this method works well for it too.
Mixed pumping also gives the best results in milk production. Don’t just rely on stimulating with electric pumps. Use a combination of your hands and breast pumping to produce the most amount of milk for your infant.
- Benefits of Pumping
Let’s look at the benefits that pumping breastmilk has for you and your baby:
- You have the perfect control over when you can feed your baby and also feeding them when you’re out of the home.
- If you’re low on milk supply, you can use pumping to massage and stimulate milk with different settings that breast pumps have nowadays.
- Usually, breast pumps and baby milk bottles come with calibration. You can observe how much milk your baby consumes on average by comparing how much milk you’ve pumped out and how much milk your baby drank.
- You can have backup milk for your baby if you’re a working mom or if you’ll be out for hours while your infant is under someone else’s care. They can bring the milk out of the cool storage, heat it up, cool it down again, and feed your baby with it.
- If your breasts have become sore from breastfeeding constantly or is bleeding, pumping your milk in bottles will help you a lot, not just to feed your infant but also to let your breasts heal.
When Should You Consider Breast Pumps
Even if you plan to breastfeed your infant exclusively, there can be circumstances that will make you consider using breast pumps. Let’s look at the instances when you should consider breast pumps to pump milk for your baby:
- Low Milk Supply
Some new mommies may have a hefty amount of milk oozing out, while others can suffer from a low milk supply. Breast pumping can help a lot in such cases.
Settings like different massage motions and frequencies of pumping can help break down any clots in the breast tissues, stimulating milk flow. Your milk in the first few days after your baby is born is extremely crucial, as it’s packed with nutritious elements.
If you find that your mammary glands aren’t producing enough milk most of the time, you can pump your breasts to bottle some milk after lactating your infant and freeze them for later use.
- Delayed Milk Flow
There are instances when your breasts are full of milk, but you can’t get it out due to milk fat blocking the flow. This can delay the natural milk flow. Sometimes, your baby’s suckling can’t break it, which is when the breast pump comes in handy.
Since they have different settings for different frequencies of massaging and vibrations, you can use the breast pump to break the clogs. This will bring back the normal milk flow.
Some mothers also don’t get the milk flow they’re supposed to get after giving birth. Pumping breasts works well to stimulate milk in this case. However, it may take some time, which is why they need to rely on fresh breastmilk from other mothers.
Sometimes, women who have had miscarriages often move to adopt a baby immediately. Because of the pregnancy, they may already have active or developing mammary glands. They can stimulate milk production by routinely using breast pumps for a few days.
There is also a process called induced lactation. Usually, mothers who take babies via surrogates use this procedure to form a stronger mother-baby bonding, which they couldn’t develop during pregnancy.
You can induce lactation by regularly massaging your breasts by hand or with a pump or by a combination of both. Sometimes, women also take hormonal medicines that increase the production of milk with prolactin, provided that it’s been prescribed by doctors.
Some women naturally produce way more milk than their babies can have. They choose to bottle that milk up and give it to mothers who need milk for their babies, be it for the adopted babies or because those mothers aren’t able to produce enough milk in any way.
- Separation/Returning To Work
Are you a working woman who went on maternity leave after your baby was born? Are you planning on returning to your work after your baby is a few months old? If you are, you won’t be with your baby in those hours. Don’t worry though; you can pump and store your milk for your infant through pumping.
But before you do that, you need to train your infant to take milk from the bottle. This will take time, so start pumping your milk from now, so that both you and your baby are prepared when you return to work.
Start with this practice as early as possible. You need time to accumulate with how you need to pump your milk, how you can stimulate it, how you should store it, how you’ll prepare it for your baby, and how you need to train your baby to have milk from the bottle without being too fussy.
- Health Issues
For mothers who suffer from certain health conditions or skin conditions like psoriasis and eczema, they shouldn’t breastfeed their babies.
Psoriasis makes the skin so sensitive that the baby’s suckling can make the nipples bleed. And with eczema, the skin constantly sheds, which can be a breastfeeding hazard for the baby.
In such scenarios, the only healthy alternative is to pump breastmilk and store it in bottles. However, if you’re infected with HIV, tuberculosis, or any other virus, then you should consider using formula since your breastmilk will transmit the viruses to your baby.
However, you can keep this phase of your life as a memory despite not being able to breastfeed your baby. For instance, you can make a breast milk ring out of your breast milk. You will essentially need to turn your breast milk into a stone and fix it on a ring. Wear it as a memory on your fingers or as a locket, whichever you prefer more!
Types of Breast Pumps
You could only wish that there was a ‘one-size-fits-all’ breast pump, but that’s not possible since women’s bodies differ vastly. Each type of body has a different shape and different milk production capacity. You also need to consider your daily functioning with these.
Luckily, there is something for everyone. From the vast array of types of breast pumps, you can try and choose whichever fits you well and performs the best and most comfortably.
There are three types of manual breast pumps- a bicycle horn pump, a handle or lever pump, and a tube pump.
The bicycle horn pump has a breast shield shaped like a manual horn tube, with a hollow rubber ball attached to the other end. Pumping that ball creates a vacuum and pulls the milk out. Doctors discourage using it as it’s difficult to clean and dry properly.
The lever pump is a lot like those water bottles we use to spray water on our indoor plants, just a breast cup replaces the nozzle tip. You place that cup on your breast securely and press on the lever or handle to create suction, which will pull out milk into an attached container.
Another similar type of manual pump has a smaller tube that you need to pump in and out of a larger tube to create a vacuum in the breast cup, which will pump milk out into a container.
Compared to other breast shells or cups that barely sit attached to your skin, a silicone breast pump has a suction that adjusts to your shape and fits perfectly. This allows for better suction, thus helping to increase milk flow if you have trouble producing enough lactation.
Since the silicone cup sticks well to any surface, you’ll experience minimal leaking when pumping your breastmilk. They’re usually manual, with a suction base that you can squeeze to create a suction and start the flow of milk.
Although they need manual action, silicone pumps are safe, compact, portable, and easy to clean and maintain. You can even sterilize them in boiling water or steam, and they’ll hold their shape properly.
If you’re using them regularly, however, you must replace silicone pumps at least every three months. This will help maintain the suction, yielding better results.
One of the best breast pumps for working and active moms is wearable breast pumps. You can wear it as a nursing bra itself or fit it inside your nursing bra.
There are three types of wearable breast pumps: hands-free wearable cups with a battery-operated pump, pumping cups with milk bottles attached to a breast pumping motor, and wearable silicone flanges that have a battery-operated motor attached to the top to stimulate pumping.
However, with these pumps, you need to ensure you get the perfect flange size. Otherwise, if they’re too big, they’ll come loose or start leaking. Too small, and you may be suffocating your breasts. Even after that, wearable breast pumps are very popular as they allow mobility and flexibility.
Portable or wireless pumps are as good as wearable pumps. Think about how great it would feel to be able to do your chores and pump your breastmilk at the same time with minimal disruption!
Portable breast pumps have a rechargeable battery, which you can clip to your clothes or carry in your pockets. You can carry the pump in your nursing bra or hang it around your neck while it’s pumping out milk.
Two portable breast pumps can fit your need perfectly – Medela Freestyle Flex and Spectra S9. You can make a Spectra S9 vs. Medela Freestyle comparison chart in order to figure out which is more appropriate for your needs and budget.
- Battery Operated
A battery-operated breast pump comes with a single pump and a double pump. With a single pump, you can pump milk from one breast at a time. With the double pump, you can pump milk out of both breasts at the same time.
You don’t need a backup power source since they have built-in rechargeable batteries. Some battery-powered pumps, like the Spectra S1, come with many settings and are usually as powerful as the hospital-grade pumps to pump out milk.
Their lightweight structure and portability make them perfect for use when on the move, for example, in the car or during a flight. Some battery-operated breast pumps can also be attached to an electric motor, which then turns them into electric pumps.
- Electric Pumps
These pumps are the go-to choice for a lot of stay-at-home mothers since they need to pump their breastmilk regularly and in large quantities.
With electric breast pumps, a long chord extends from the suction cup to connect to an external power source. You need to ensure you have a backup power supply in case of a power outage, or you have other suction methods available, such as manual pumping.
In terms of their usability, the functions they provide, and how portable they are, electric pumps are generally the most budget-friendly option. They are certainly the best value for money. In this category, you can check out Spectra S2, as it’s a good hospital-grade electric pump.
Fit the suction cups to your breasts and select the mode of function you want – massaging, stimulation, pumping, or suction strength, or all chronologically. You can do a Spectra S1 vs. Spectra S2 comparison to see which pump suits your purpose better.
- Hospital Grade/Closed-system
Although not something you’d commonly see in households and will find more commonly in – as the name suggests – hospitals, hospital-grade or closed-system pumps are the most powerful breast pumps you’ll find.
Usually, mothers with premature babies or those who are having trouble getting their breastmilk out, use this pump to stimulate the breast tissues for enough milk to feed the baby in intervals. Besides, mothers who need to pump milk exclusively for their babies can use this breast pump.
While most breastmilk pumps are open systems, meaning there’s no barrier between the milk and the pump, the hospital-grade pump has a milk barrier. This allows the milk to travel down a route without leaking into the pumping mechanism.
One of the best hospital-grade breast pumps you can have at home is the Spectra S2. When you do a Spectra S2 vs. Spectra S9 comparison, you’ll see how well it performs compared to the portable pump.
How To Choose The Best Breast Pump
When choosing a breast pump, you have a lot to compare. The pumping frequency, weight, parts, noise, and longevity definitely matter. You also need to compare the costs against all the functions, accessories, and the warranty of the product.
Let’s see how you can choose the best pumps for your particular use case based on important factors such as how easy they are to use, where the pumped milk will go, how long you can use them, and how to compare them to the pricing to make sure they’re worth it. You also need to see which breast pumps your insurance covers.
Before looking for breast pumps, decide how frequently you want to pump your milk. Do you want to do it daily? Or a few times a week? Will you opt for exclusive pumping or mixed pumping?
Based on these factors, you can narrow down your breast pump search to a few eligible models, and start comparing them before choosing the one that is best for you depending on your use case.
If you naturally have low milk flow, then you need to have a pump that will have settings for speed, cycles, suction, and vacuum. Closed system pumps are the best choice for such usage.
Let’s be honest, no matter how useful and practical they are, breast pumps can get expensive, which is why you need to ensure the price you’re paying for the pump is worth it. It should not feel like an expense. Instead, it should feel like an investment for both you and your baby.
Besides, you need to check whether your insurance covers breast pumps and which pumps they cover. This is especially necessary if you’re planning breast-pumping exclusively or very frequently.
If you plan to start traveling or working soon after having your baby, or as soon as your maternity leave expires, then you should opt for something lightweight and comfortable for you to carry around. Opt for wearable or portable breast pumps, as you can fit them in your nursing bra.
Even if you’re not planning to get back to work, you may need to travel with your baby or run errands with them. Choose an electric or battery-operated pump that’s easy to carry around and can fit easily in a concealed carry diaper bag.
Breast pumps aren’t just one piece of equipment. They have a number of components that you need to connect and create a system that will help you express milk for your baby.
Each part has its own lifespan, and these pieces may wear and tear within a short period, especially the tubes, valves, and flanges. This is why you need a warranty for the entire setup that you buy. Check if the warranty allows you to replace these parts separately.
- Pumping Location
Where do you see yourself pumping milk often? Is it in your home or your office? A car or an airplane? Or do you need to use the restroom or a nursing room? There’s an option for every location you plan to pump.
If you’re pumping in your home or plan to pump during office breaks, then a battery-operated or an electric pump like the closed-system pumps can do the job. If you’re pumping in vehicles or in spaces like the restroom, then manual pumps or portable pumps will do a good job.
How To Use A Breast Pump
For new mothers, breast pumps can be very confusing and intimidating. The amount of maintenance that they require can be overwhelming and the wide range of settings available may be mind-boggling.
However, if you keep certain things in your mind when trying to assemble the parts and make sense of what’s happening, you’ll get more comfortable with every use.
Following are the things you should do as a first-time user, and also after you’ve learned how to use breast pumps.
- Read Manual to Understand Functionality of All the Parts of the Pump
Since breast pumps come with various parts and each is connected to the other in some way, they will definitely carry an instructions manual booklet. Read the manual thoroughly to understand what purpose each part serves and how you should connect them.
Besides, the pump may have a lot of settings. Read the manual of your chosen model thoroughly to find out which settings you need to use for massaging, stimulating, expressing, and letdown.
For instance, some models, like the Spectra S1 and Spectra S2, come with instructions on how many cycles and which suction setting you need to use for which purpose.
- Clean and Sterilize
If your breast pump doesn’t already come with cleaning tools, you can find them in kids’ shops. It’s essential to clean the pump and its accessories immediately after you’re done pumping your milk into bottles or containers.
You should always thoroughly clean and sterilize your breast pump before your first use.
Soak the accessories in warm water and dishwashing soap for some time, and then wash them thoroughly. And if you want to sterilize them, check if they’re safe to put in boiling water. If so, you can put them in boiling water for a few minutes, take them out, and dry and cool them.
You don’t need to sterilize them every time you use them. However, sterilizing after every two or three uses or once a day is a good practice to keep your baby safe from germs. But it’s necessary to sterilize after every use if your infant is immuno-compromised.
- Regular Maintenance
Let’s say you’re using an electric or a battery-operated pump. If you want to get the best out of your breast pump, then you need to clean and sterilize the accessories regularly and replace the accessories in time. But that’s not all.
Replace the valves, membranes, and tubing after every two or three months to prevent tearing and preserve proper suction, and the shields at least once a year. You also need to replace your pump’s backflow protector at least twice a year to ensure milk doesn’t leak into the motor.
Disassemble your breast pump once in a while for a thorough cleaning by following the cleaning instructions in the pump manual. Dry the parts thoroughly afterward, and reassemble them correctly.
Besides, you should never allow your breast pump to run out of charge and shouldn’t let the batteries sit in nil charge for too long. Otherwise, the battery will stop functioning altogether.
- Storing Milk
If you’re planning to pump out just a small amount of milk for your infant for the time being, then you can pump it out into a bottle. However, don’t store milk bottles in the fridge or freezer. These bottles may crack at low temperatures as they’re not made to be stored in a cold environment.
If you plan to pump out a large batch of milk for the whole day or for a maximum of four days, you can pump it directly into storage bags and store them in the freezer. Or, you can store milk in small quantities in washed and sterilized food-grade containers.
You can freeze freshly pumped breastmilk for up to six months. However, you can’t refreeze breastmilk that you’ve already thawed.
Besides, you can refrigerate thawed milk only for a day. So store milk only in the amounts you need to take out every time you need to feed your baby.
Milk Supply Enhancing Techniques
You can have a decreased milk flow for a number of reasons, such as:
- Your baby is feeding less than eight times a day.
- Your infant can’t latch on properly or has weak suckling.
- You started giving them solid food too early, thus decreasing your breastfeeding frequency.
- You’re a smoker.
- You’re often quite exhausted and lack sleep.
- You’re using smaller flanges compared to your breast size.
- You started on birth control.
- You’re pregnant again.
With routine, consistency, and the right techniques, you can increase your milk flow again. Let’s look at the ways you can increase the flow again.
- Prepare Before Pumping
This isn’t just applicable for pumping but also before breastfeeding your baby if it still doesn’t want to have milk from bottles.
Massage each breast for at least ten minutes to stimulate milk production or break down any accumulated milk fat. This will also help your breasts to warm up and produce more milk. Producing more milk easily will help to vacuum your milk better, and can help you prevent sore nipples.
After feeding your infant, you may still have some milk remaining, which can block or reduce the lactation flow. Massaging can help to pump out that excess milk and allow fresh, nutrient-rich lactation.
- Set Pumping Schedules
Instead of pumping whenever you feel like it and however long you want, set specific pumping schedules. Create a routine of the specific hours you want to pump your milk. Pump each breast for fifteen minutes to have proper stimulation and flow.
Lay your baby on your chest for twenty minutes after every feeding session. Besides, set a pumping schedule immediately after feeding your baby to drain off excess milk. You may pump for fifteen minutes straight, or pump for a while, rest a little, and pump again for a few minutes.
Test pumping times to see which gives you a better result. Remember, you should follow the schedule religiously to increase your lactation flow and production.
- Choose a Pump That Suits You
It’s incredibly crucial to select a pump that will give you enough power and a number of functions to meet your specific purposes. Besides, check if the size of the cups fits your breasts perfectly.
If you’re breast-pumping frequently and prefer resting while expressing your milk, then you can opt for electric pumps. If you only pump sometimes, then manual pumps are a good option for you.
If you’re a working mother or you prefer doing your chores, strolling your baby, or working from home while pumping your milk, then battery-operated, wearable, and portable pumps are perfect.
Almost all breast pumps come with a range of cup sizes from which you can find your best fit. If you take a size too big or small, it will affect your milk supply negatively.
- Skin-to-Skin Contact
Skin-to-skin contact, or ‘kangaroo care,’ is an essential step if you want to increase your milk supply. Sounds weird? It isn’t, really.
Skin-to-skin contact with your baby will help you to relax, benefitting you by increasing your milk production. Remember, stress can decrease your milk flow, depriving your baby of essential nutrients.
Besides, skin-to-skin contact for twenty minutes after breastfeeding will also help your baby be more intimate with you. Your bay will latch better and will instantly start feeding when you try to feed them.
- Ten to Fifteen Minutes on Each Side
Whether you use a breast pump to pump out milk or breastfeed your baby directly, you must pump each side for ten to fifteen minutes.
Why do you need to do it on both sides instead of just one? Switching breasts will help increase the fat content of the milk in every feeding, which will help to maintain your infant’s weight. If your baby is underweight, then this fat will help them to recover.
Besides, if you frequently switch sides while pumping or breastfeeding, it’ll stimulate the milk flow. Thus you’ll be producing more milk to feed your infant adequately.
Be careful not to limit your pumping or nursing time in any way though. Otherwise, it’ll have an adverse effect on the amount of milk you’re producing or may clump up in your tissues.
- Draining Excess Milk Afterwards
A breast pump isn’t just for expressing milk for your baby. You can also use it to drain off excess milk after lactating your infant, especially if massaging with your hand isn’t working effectively.
Use suction on your breasts for a few minutes after breastfeeding your baby. Letting out excess milk will prevent your breasts from engorgement, and will also allow new milk to flow effectively.
So, the next time you feed your baby, they won’t have to suck hard, and you won’t have sore nipples.
- Balanced Diet
Last but certainly not least, no matter how busy you are or how little you have rested, you must have a balanced diet. A proper diet will help you produce healthy amounts of milk rich in nutrients and antibodies for your infant.
If you think you aren’t getting enough vitamins and essential nutrients from your daily food, consult a doctor to take the post-natal supplements suitable for you. If you still think that you aren’t able to feed your baby with your breastmilk, you can opt for formula milk in consultation with the doctor’s recommendations.
Breast pumps can be a tricky subject to learn about and work with for first-time mothers. So, if you’re a new momma, you may have a hard time learning how breast pumps work, which pumps work for which purpose, all the functions and settings, and choosing from the wide range of options in the market.
Being consistent with this device may be difficult, but with the help of this article, we hope you’ll be able to choose the right one for you, and in no time, you’ll be pumping out adequate amounts of milk for your infant daily.