1st time mom tips for breast pumping
Some people may refer to pumping as a necessary evil. Others will call it a joyous relief. Many women will fall somewhere in between.
Pumping can be a very valuable tool in those first several months or up to a year and beyond if you choose. Let’s say your goal is to have your baby receive breast milk exclusively but you will be away from your baby for an extended period at any point. The solution: breast pumping!
I will admit that breastfeeding, partnered with pumping, can become a bit overwhelming. Not every mom is going to be willing or able to take the time, patience and sometimes pain that is required to breast pump and that’s OK. If you are going to be giving it a whirl…these tips to breast pumping may help!
1. Don’t stress over it! …here’s the basics of how to breast pump
At it’s core, breast pumping is attaching a device to your breast that sucks the milk out. I know that’s an oversimplification of it but the tip here is not to stress too much about the mechanics of it.
I know it’s tempting to ask yourself a million questions on the subject. How do I know if I’m doing it right? What is the appropriate amount of time to pump? Is it going to hurt? How do I know what flange size to use? What is a flange anyway?
It’s going to be okay momma! You got this! In a matter of months, you too will be a pumping master.
Each pump comes with thorough instructions on how to use them. They also walk you through the different settings, including suction power and speed which equate to stimulation mode vs expression mode. Also, how to see the milk production quantity either in-app or by visual measurement on the collection container.
They typically have a guide of how to measure your nipple size as well. This way you know what flange size to use. (BTW…the flange is the part that suctions your nipple into the pump to draw out the milk.)
Just remember, the more relaxed you are, literally your muscles relaxed, the easier the milk will flow.
2. Be familiar with when you may need to start pumping
Deciding when it is time to start pumping is going to vary from one mom to the next. Every woman’s body and situation is going to be different.
Some mothers may need to start pumping right away after giving birth. Particularly if there is a medical complication that doesn’t allow for the baby to nurse from the breast.
Other women may never have the need to pump if their bodies are able to match their babies intake needs with their supply. Also, if they don’t need to return to work at some point during breast feeding.
For a large portion of new moms, the need to use a breast pump will occur at some point within the first few months after giving birth. Most women’s milk comes in around the 3 to 5 day mark postpartum. If you are one of the lucky ones, like myself, and there is an abundance of milk supply, pumping will be an absolute necessity at this stage!
It may not be until you need to return to work that breast pumping needs to begin. I HIGHLY suggest practicing using your breast pump a few times before you actually need to use it. Troubleshooting errors with the pump while at work or when your breasts are becoming engorged will lead to pain and frustration.
3. Create a breast pumping schedule
If you establish a feeding schedule for your little one then this part should be easy. When you are away, pump at about the same time that you would normally be breastfeeding.
If you don’t have a schedule, your breasts do a pretty good job of telling you when they need to be emptied. They get firm and can start tingling. They may even have a stinging sensation or become engorged and lumpy. Try not to wait too long in between pumping sessions if you can avoid it.
Sticking to a consistent, frequent pumping schedule will also help keep your milk supply up. So make sure to have breast pumping at the top of your priority list when away from your baby.
4. Have a pumping station with all your essentials
A comfy chair, water, snacks, baby wipes, nipple cream and wash clothes are all great things to have at a dedicated pumping location. This could also serve dual-purpose as a spot to breastfeed your little one.
There is a very interesting thing that happens when you start breastfeeding and pumping. All of a sudden you feel like you have been walking through the desert for 3 days and ran out of water long ago. The desire to quench your thirst is strong and you will think “I NEED WATER NOW!”
I had to get to the bottom of why this reaction would occur every time. In my research, I discovered that the hormone Oxytocin is released during milk extraction and causes this symptom.
It is good to have a few snacks close by as well. I found when I would sit down to pump that I would notice my hunger creeping in. The opportunity to eat with a new little one at home may not come as often as you would like. Pumping is a great time to increase your calorie intake to keep up with feeding your baby.
Wash clothes were another handy essential to have a stack of close by while pumping. It never failed that milk would run down onto my shirt or bra. I learned to tuck a washcloth into my bra on the underside of my breast to catch any milk that dribbled down. Then it can be used to wipe off your breasts and nipples when you are done.
5. Don’t forget to clean ALL parts of your breast pump
You will want to use hot soapy water to clean any part of the pump that touches milk or the breasts. There are dish soaps specifically made to clean breast milk or something like Dawn dish soap works as well.
Sterilizing the parts of the milk collection setup, while good to do, is not necessary after every use.
There are some pump parts and milk containers that are safe to be put in the dishwasher. I didn’t have one available to me for a period of time, so I would let them soak in a metal bowl for a while before scrubbing the parts and setting them on a drying rack.
For on-the-go or places that don’t have a sink, portable cleaning wipes are available for convenience. They look similar to baby wipe packs and are great for wiping off the pump and accessories as needed.
If you have a pump such as the Spectra 2 Plus, it comes with round disk-like parts that are what move and create suction during the pumping process. Moisture can build up in these pieces and cause mold to grow. It is important to open these parts up and let them air dry or wash them between sessions.
When using the Medela hand pump, be aware of the silicon cup on the underneath of the handle that is removable. I started to notice an odd smell when I was using the pump and realized that moisture was accumulating under the cup. It can be easily pulled off so you can clean the silicone and the handle.
It is a good idea to give the mechanical unit of electric pumps a good wipe down every week or so as well. We are touching the buttons and tubing, then handling our breasts and milk containers. We don’t want to risk the spread of germs.
You are on your way to becoming a breast pumping pro!
I found a lot of joy and a sense of accomplishment in being able to successfully breast pump at home and once returning to work. It is such a relief to be able to feed your baby the breast milk that was intended for them.
These are just a handful of tips and tricks that I picked up over the many months of breast pumping. I know there are MANY more words of wisdom that other moms could share. Please feel free to leave a comment with any helpful thoughts or questions you may have.