Breast pump: Express it right

Concerned about feeding milk to your infant when you are at work? Worry not. For, this article explains all about breast pumps and how they aid working mothers.

By Avani Thakore

Breast pump: Express it right

Nishitha recently gave birth to a baby girl. The experience of childbirth filled her with excitement. Being Internet savvy, she prepared herself (at least, she thought she had) for the status of a new mom, by researching well on topics such as breastfeeding and baby care. But then, to her surprise and shock, she found that the baby was not able to latch on to her breasts properly even five days after birth. The doctor advised her to use a breast pump until the baby learnt to latch on. But, Nishitha was hesitant - the myths surrounding breast pumps confused her. That’s when she sought my advice. Not just Nishitha, there are millions of new moms around the world who face a similar situation - having queries and doubts when it comes to the use of breast pumps. Now let’s try to address these concerns.

Why, when and how of breast pumps

Some health conditions and specific occasions might prevent a mom from breastfeeding her baby. This could deprive the baby of nutritious breast milk. In such cases, breast pumps come in handy in assisting the mom to express milk and ensure that the baby continues to be fed on breast milk. 

Here are some potential situations and reasons:

    • When the mother’s milk supply is either inadequate or excessive (Breast pumps can also help donate the milk in such cases and thus save another needy baby!)
    • When the milk ducts are plugged or breasts are engorged
    • When the mother faces major hormonal changes and the milk flow is disturbed
    • For helping babies who have issues related to latching on when nipples are inverted
    • For the convenience and ease of mothers who need to return to work after delivery
    • For aiding mothers who need to travel or have to be separated from the baby because of surgery or other medical conditions or for any other reason
    • For helping feed preterm babies who usually have sucking and latching on issues

Choosing the right pump

Ask yourself the following questions before you buy a breast pump. The answers will help you choose the right model.

    • Why do you need to use the breast pump? (returning to work, being away from the baby, latching-on issues, preterm baby)
    • How much time are you going to be away from your baby? (Part-time or full-time work, short durations for hospital visits or shopping)
    • Do you have any breast issues like engorgement or soreness?
    • Do you plan to increase or induce your milk supply with the help of the breast pump?
    • How often are you going to use it? (number of times of exclusive pumping a day or night)
    • Where are you going to use it? (home, office, any other place)
    • How urgent would be your need to pump milk from the breasts?
    • How much do you want to spend on the breast pump?
    • What are the options available in the market? (different brands and models, reliability, warranty)
    • Is the pump easy to assemble, use and transport? (depending on your travelling needs)
    • What is the feedback from friends or relatives who have used it?

Happy breastfeeding

Here are three golden rules to be followed while using breast pumps:

    • Ensure that you feed/express more, so that you will produce more. Do not go by the clock or set routines. Good mothering skills don’t depend on clocks. ‘Feed on demand’ should be the ‘Mantra’.
    • Ensure that you have good liquid intake - not just milk, but all the healthy diet choices like fresh juice, water, homemade vegetable soup and so on.
    • Ensure that you have a positive and relaxed mindset! Be happy and generate lots of ‘Happy’ hormones that will help produce more milk.
    • Remember, breastfeeding is truly a commitment — and the effort is definitely worth it! Happy breastfeeding to all Mamas!!

Types of breast pumps

Electric breast pumps

Advantages: 

    • These are the most powerful breast pumps. Most electric pumps facilitate double side pumping, which not only saves time and energy but also offers an increased yield of milk. Moreover, these pumps also have adjustable suction levels. For mothers who are contemplating return to work and would like to continue breastfeeding the baby, these pumps are very convenient.

Disadvantages:

    • Electric pumps are costlier than other pumps. High-end models, which feature double side pumping cost anywhere between `10,000 and `25,000
    • As these pumps yield more milk than required, there is a risk of wastage, if the excess milk is not preserved well.

Battery-operated breast pumps

Advantages:

    • Compared to electric pumps, these are less expensive (`2,000 to `10,000). They also have the benefit of being lightweight and portable – you can carry them wherever you go. If you plan to use pumps only occasionally (to have a good night’s sleep, to relieve breast engorgement, need to be away from the baby for short periods of time), this is the right choice.

Disadvantages:

    • Pumping using these machines takes more time and requires more energy.
    • There is also the risk of batteries running out of power right in the middle of a pumping session.

Manual breast pumps

Advantages:

    • These pumps have the benefit of helping mothers control and regulate the rate of suction and its level of intensity. Also, the sensation of pumping is almost the same as that of the baby sucking. Manual pumps are less expensive (`600 to `1,500) and offer the ease of portability. Another big plus is that these pumps provide the convenience of pumping one breast while the baby nurses on the other, both at the same time.

Disadvantages:

    • Using manual pumps is time-consuming, tiring and laborious as it requires the use of both hands.
    • Also, as the milk yield is less, mothers get the (wrong) notion that they are not producing enough milk and could end up being frustrated.

Storage:

There are several things to keep in mind while storing expressed milk. For starters, do not mix freshly pumped milk with already refrigerated milk. Store in airtight milk bottles. Make sure you store the milk in the coldest part of the fridge and not on the door. Do not store milk for more than 5 days. So, it is better to label the bottles with date of expression. To thaw the milk, hold the bottle under warm water. Do not microwave or heat breast milk. This is to minimise the loss of minerals and vitamin.

Breast Pump FAQs

My baby takes a feed for at least 30 minutes or, sometimes, even more. So, do I need to pump for a longer time to get a good supply of milk?

Generally, you will need to pump for 15-20 minutes. You may not have milk flowing during that entire time; however, you will need to pump that long to get sufficient nipple stimulation.

Can I heat breast milk in the microwave?

When you heat breast milk in the microwave, some important nutrients are lost and, sometimes, the uneven heating can scald babies’ mouths. Instead, you can take some warm water in a bowl and place the bottle of milk in it to bring it to normal temperature.

Can I engage myself in any other activity while pumping milk?

Yes, you can engage yourself in other activities such as eating or reading a book.

How long does breast milk stay fresh in room temperature?

Depending on the weather conditions, there is a possibility of contamination. So, it is better to store the milk in the refrigerator after 2 to 3 hours. Once refrigerated, use it within four days.

Do I have to drink a lot of milk in order to produce a good quantity of milk?

Not at all. All you need is a very healthy diet, which should include a good amount of calcium. Even non-dairy items like nuts and fish are good sources.

How long should I wait to pump, after I have breastfed my baby?

There is no need to wait to pump after feeding the baby, for, you will be producing milk 24/7. In fact, you can express milk even after every feed as your baby has already stimulated your breasts. So don’t wait, just go for it whenever and wherever you want.