Woman pumping breastmilk

Pumping 101

With breastfeeding, no one says that you have to pump and store breast milk if you do not need or want to. But there can come a point when you will – sooner or later – have to be away from your new baby – for work, for school, for travel, for alone time. Pumping or hand expressing breastmilk are common methods of breastfeeding and can save you a lot of stress and time.

If you are returning to work after maternity leave or know you have to be away from your baby for a little while, try pumping a couple weeks beforehand to get the hang of it. This will save you  a lot of frustration when the time finally comes to leave your baby.

Because pumping is a common way to breastfeed, the good news is that you have lots of pump choices now. The bad news is that you have lots of choices now. So, how do you know which type is going to be best for you?

A simple breakdown of pumping tools:

Electric pump – Always get a double electric pump from your insurance even if they do not cover the exact brand you want. A good example is the Spectra Pump. Getting a double electric pump from insurance is free. Electric pumps generally allow you to pump both breasts at a time, which is a real time-saver and will help increase your milk supply. 

Hands-free and tubeless pumps – These pumps are great if you want freedom with pumping while doing other tasks and walking around (hello multitasking, a mama’s best friend!). A good example of this pump is the Elvie Pump. These are also good for discreetly pumping at work or in the carpool line. Heads up, if you want this you may need to pay out of pocket. But, the investment is definitely worth all the time you save!

Haakaa – These are perfect to stick on the boob that is leaking during a breastfeed to collect surplus milk. Even though its’ technically called a pumper, a Haakaa is more so there to catch your milk. It provides a gentle suction and is used to catch your “let down” to collect milk for later use.

Hand expression – Also called manual expression. You’re probably wondering why you would pump manually when you have all these expensive pumps to use. But, trust me it will come in handy more than you think and is still a very valuable skill to learn. For those early days when only teaspoons of milk are needed, and times when you forget your pump parts on the drying rack at home or run out of batteries, hand expression can come in for the win. It does take practice. It is always good to know your breasts, the two tools that are always with you.

I do not have time to dawdle on how to use pumps here. However,  STUDY ON HOW TO USE YOUR BRAND OF PUMP. Google it. Youtube it. Look on Pinterest. Finding out tried and true tips on how to use it right can be the difference between wanting to throw your pump out the window (we’ve all been there) and thriving.  

Thinking about building a breastmilk stash and don’t know where to start? Here’s a routine to try:

  1. If possible, ESTABLISH YOUR BREASTFEEDING relationship with your baby first. This helps your supply come into rhythm with your baby (there is such a thing as oversupply that can be, well, interesting). Breastfeeding rhythm can happen around 3 weeks or beyond. Like I said before, it takes patience. 

  2. Week 1 of starting to build supply – Start with a Haakaa on one side with feeding to catch extra milk to save for later.

  3. Week 2 – Add in a pumping session in the morning while breastfeeding your baby or after the first morning feed.
  4. Then if needed, ADD in a pumping session 30 minutes to an hour after your baby falls asleep for the longest nap of the day. 

What to do with your milk once you express it? Here are a few quick storage guidelines:

  • Keep milk at room temperature – but ONLY up to 4 hours after pumping.

  • Refrigerate it – breastmilk can last in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.

  • Freeze it if you know you aren’t going to be using it in the next 4 days. 

  • Use cooler packs – lasts up to 24 hours in a cooler or insulated pack after pumping.

Thank you for taking the time out of your busy mama day! If you are looking for more pumping tips, follow us on Pinterest for how to’s and easy pumping information. 

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Emily Sylvester

Emily Sylvester is the Founder & CEO of Mother of Fact. As a Licensed Registered Dietitian, International Board Certified Lactation Consultant, and Mom of 3, she's helped thousands of families in many low/middle income communities feel confident and supported in their feeding journey. Her mission is to eliminate the deficit of equitable breastfeeding & formula feeding help for all households & healthcare systems.
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