For most moms, breast pumping is a necessary evil. Maybe you are going back to work soon, or you have to exclusively pump to feed your baby. Maybe you plan on going out on a date and leaving your little one with a babysitter sometime, or your breasts feel so engorged that in order to get some relief, you have to pump a little out. Whatever your reasons, the odds are, you are going to need to figure out a breast pump machine at some point.
Now, I’m no pumping expert. The only breast pump I have is the Medela Pump in Style. It works really well for me, and I can’t imagine anything working better, although I have ordered the Spectra S2, which I have heard super amazing things about, so we will see when that arrives. Maybe I will write a review comparing the two. But for now, I think I have enough knowledge to give you some pointers as you learn to pump.
First of all, just so you know, pumping is weird. Weirder than breastfeeding. And once you get both sides going at the same time, you feel like a total cow. A completely triumphant and accomplished cow. You will be so proud of yourself. Every drop of breast milk will be as valuable to you as gold, and you’ll want to cry the first time you spill a bottle, or have to throw away excess milk that your little one didn’t drink.
Also, know that everyone’s body is different. What works for me may not work for you, and vice versa. Some women’s bodies produce more, and some produce less. There is no such thing as normal.
How to Pump, Using the Medela Pump in Style
- Clean your pump parts. Before you use them for the first time, you’ll want to be sure your bottles and flanges are all clean. Also, clean the little white membrane parts, making sure not to lose those down the drain. Hot water and dish soap is all you’ll need for this. After pumping I just freeze the milk and stick the empty bottle and flange in the fridge so I don’t have to clean them each time. I make sure to wash them once a day though, to keep any bacteria from growing.
- Plug it all in. Find an outlet near a place where you can relax and pump. Being comfortable is important when you pump, because if you aren’t relaxed, your milk won’t flow as well.
- Put it together. Put the membrane where it belongs in the bottom of the lid part, and put the flange back together with the bottle. Plug the clear tube into one of the two air holes on the machine itself, and connect it to your bottle flange. If you are pumping on both sides, you’ll use both the machine’s air holes. If you’re only pumping one side, you should take the rubber piece in between both holes and use it to plug the hole you aren’t using. This will help your pump work more efficiently. You’re ready to pump!
- Hook yourself up. Like a cow. Just kidding. But seriously. Put the flange up to your breast and start the machine by turning the dial. You will feel a slight tug and hear air being compressed through the machine. Turn the dial just until it starts to hurt, and turn it back down one setting, so that it is at the maximum pressure possible, while still being comfortable.
Now watch your breasts in amazement as milk magically begins to flow!
If your milk doesn’t come in large amounts the first time, that’s okay. It’s normal to get an ounce or less. Sometimes just a small trickle will collect in the bottom of the bottle before your body says “I’m done!” But that’s okay, don’t give up! The extra stimulation is triggering your body, telling it to produce more. Typically you should start to pump more and more at each session. Here are some extra tips on how to get the most out of pumping:
- Have your baby with you, or a picture of your baby to get your subconscious producing. Seriously, this can be magic. You will feel weird, trying to trick your body when your mind knows that you ain’t feeding an actual baby right now. But it’s worth a shot.
- Massage before you pump. Use circular motions on your breasts with just your fingertips, and then lean over and give them a shake, and repeat the steps again. Or use a warm washcloth and do an all-over massage.
- Hydrate yourself. The easiest way to remember to do this is by drinking a glass of water every time your baby nurses. If you know you are dehydrated, sports drinks are a good way of rehydrating yourself.
- Have a schedule that makes sense. If your baby is eating every three hours and you go off to work, you should be pumping every three hours at work, or as close to that time as possible. If you are at home, and just trying to stockpile some milk for when you go to work, or for those date nights, or maybe you are choosing to donate extra milk (good for you!), then there are a couple of options for you. I suggest pumping in the morning, about thirty minutes after your baby feeds. Your milk flow is much better in the morning. Just try to keep it about the same time each day. If you want to pump more than that, you can pump each breast as soon as your baby is done eating on each side. This technique keeps your breasts on empty, and some feel that it works well in triggering their bodies to produce more milk. You can also add an extra pump session in the morning, when you are producing the most.
- How much you pump does not reflect the amount your baby gets while breastfeeding. Your baby is much more skilled at extracting your liquid gold, so don’t worry if you are only pumping an ounce or two at a time. Your baby is likely getting much more.
- If you have concerns about pumping, or even breastfeeding, I strongly suggest that you see a lactation consultant, or contact one. These ladies specialize in breasts, and they will be able to give you professional advice that can save you a lot of struggles down the road. The sooner the better.
- Eat good-quality food, and don’t try limiting your calories. You need about five-hundred extra calories a day while you breastfeed. Some women find that breastfeeding makes them hungrier. Some women gain a lot of weight, and some women can’t seem to keep the weight on. I have fluctuated about ten pounds ever since I started breastfeeding. Just remember that everyone’s body is different, and there is no normal.
- Your fresh milk is good at room temperature for 6-8 hours. You can keep it in the refrigerator for 24 hours, in the side freezer for 2 weeks, and in a chest freezer for 3-6 months.
- Don’t refreeze milk.
- If you only pump say, one ounce, and you want to combine your next pump session with this one, you can. Just make sure you don’t add warm milk to refrigerated milk. It all needs to be the same temperature before mixing.
- Don’t waste your milk! If it smells sour when it is fresh, it could just have excess lipase in it, and there are ways of saving it. If you have extra milk, you can use it on a diaper rash, use it for some infections, donate it, sell it, or even bathe in it! If it truly has been stored for too long, then there’s nothing you can do but toss it all. Sad day.
Did I forget anything? Is there anything you have questions about? I’m no pro, but I would love to answer any questions you have, so please, please, drop them in the comments, or shoot me an e-mail!
Guess what? Free printables, that’s what! I designed a cute page you can print out to remind yourself what you can eat to boost your milk, and what you should avoid to protect your supply. You can download the PDF version of foods to eat, and foods to avoid, and print it out. I have found that having this on my fridge or somewhere in the kitchen helps me to remember what I should not be eating. Along with that, there is a handy printable here that you can use to keep track of the water you are drinking, and make sure you’re getting enough! Anything over 8 is a plus! Enjoy, and keep pumpin’!