Breast Pumping 101

Babies and Bumps

February 04, 2022

Breast Pumping 101

There’s so much information available on breast pumping that it can be overwhelming. We’re here to break it down for you, starting with… what is a breast pump, anyway? Babies & Bumps founder Monica Infante recently hosted a webinar with Stacy Notestine, an international board-certified lactation consultant (IBCLC) and the founder of Baby’s Best Beginning. Keep reading for Stacy’s breast pumping tips for moms-to-be and new moms.

Or, get the full recording here.

What is a Breast Pump?

Women can use breast pumps to remove breast milk when breastfeeding is not possible, allowing them to bottle feed their babies with their own breast milk. This is ideal for women who are going back to work, going through a lifestyle change, or planning to be away from their baby for a considerable amount of time.

Different Types of Breast Pumps

There are so many different breast pumps out there… which one is right for me?

We’re here to help you evaluate all the different pump options. Let’s dive into all the styles you may want to consider:

Hand Pumps (Manual Pumps): Stacy recommends using a hand pump for five to ten minutes on each breast before switching. These pumps are typically more affordable than electric pumps.

Personal Use Pumps: These are electric and battery-powered pumps designed for use by one person. According to Stacy, she hasn’t noticed a difference in the effectiveness of electric versus battery pumps.

Wearable Pumps: A variation on personal use pumps are wearable pumps, which fit inside women’s bras, allowing hands-free pumping and multitasking.

Hospital-Grade Pumps: If your baby can’t latch or you suffered birth trauma, a hospital pump may be a good option to try. These pumps can be pretty expensive. We recommend checking with your hospital to learn more about renting options.

When you’re breastfeeding, the baby comes to the breast and suckles fast. Both personal use and hospital-grade pumps have a cycle that mimics this at the beginning of every pumping session. And you should start hand pumping with short, quick pumps to stimulate your letdown when using hand pumps.

Milk Collectors: A milk collector attaches to your breast to catch any milk that leaks out. Milk collectors, unlike breast pumps, perform a more passive role, relying on light suction to draw out your milk.

For more information on each of the different types of pumps, watch our full recording of the webinar here.

Pump Anatomy

My pump has so many bits and pieces… what are they all for? 

Now that we have highlighted the different types of pumps, we’d like to break down the major components of a breast pump.

Breast Pump Parts

Your nipple should fit into the center of the flange. Every pump has a different size flanges available; it’s important to note when selecting the correct size, you must look at the diameter of your nipple, not your breast size. Many women find that they’re not getting any milk when pumping, and a common cause of this is using the incorrect flange size. The whole flange should be filled by your breast, and you should see your nipple moving in and out – similar to what you’d see if baby were latched and nursing.

The duckbill valve is another integral part of a breast pump; it’s where the suction is formed. It is important to check with your pump’s manufacturer regarding how often you should replace the duckbill.

How do I clean my pump?

When it comes to cleaning your pump, Stacy says it’s most important to wash the parts that the milk touches. For instance, you don’t need to wash the tubing, but she recommends using a sanitary wipe if you wish to. When it comes to cleaning the parts of the pump, it’s best to take every piece apart and wash them in soapy hot water, you can air-dry the pieces or stick them in a bottle dryer. When sanitizing the parts, you can boil everything for five to ten minutes. For more information on sanitizing, click here to view CDC recommendations.

When to Pump

When should I start pumping?

Stacy recommends that women should focus on breastfeeding for the first three to four weeks after their baby is born and then introduce the pump after that. “If breastfeeding is going well, I tell moms to focus on [that] for the first three to four weeks. Practice the basics of breastfeeding like latching, holding, positioning, and listening for swallows. Once that’s down, then somewhere between weeks three and four, that’s when we start talking about pumping.” Stacy suggests feeding your baby in the morning when you have a lot of milk and then waiting around thirty minutes after completing the feeding to pump for ten more minutes.

My maternity leave is ending soon… do I need to create a large stash of milk for my baby?

If moms can pump at work or carve out time daily, there’s no need to produce a large milk stash. As Stacy points out, “it’s a big myth that moms need this great big stash of milk in their freezer before they go back to work.” Also, the body will produce antibodies to whatever germs are encountered at work or elsewhere, which will benefit the baby more when milk is fresh (vs. frozen and stashed).

Tips & Tricks

We’ve got you covered to help you make the most of your breast pumping experience. Here are some tips and tricks to help you pump with confidence.

Purchasing a Pump

Breast pumps can be costly, so Stacy advises women to check with their insurance and see what different pumps are covered. Most insurance companies cover breast pumps, but it’s always important to reach out to learn about your options.

Wash Your Hands

The number one thing many moms forget to do is to wash their hands before they touch any part of their breast pump equipment. If you don’t have access to a sink, use hand sanitizer instead.

Adjust the Suction 

When they first begin to pump, many women don’t know how to adjust the suction on the pump. A common misconception is that you’ll pump more milk with a tighter suction. If you crank the suction up too much, your body will produce cortisol, a stress hormone that will ultimately reduce your milk supply. If you’re in pain, turn down the suction.

Maximize Your Time

Stacy recommends maximizing your time by double pumping (i.e. both sides at the same time) for fifteen to twenty minutes. An exception can be that if the woman has large breasts, in which case, it may be easier to pump one breast at a time.

Breast Pumping & Nursing Bras 

If you’re looking to use one of the hands-free breast pumps, the key is getting the right bra. Many women may consider going up a cup size to accommodate the breast pump inside the bra. Also, look for a combination of a nursing and pumping bra. Until recently, many women used a bra that resembled a tube top and would have to change bras when pumping. But we’ve come a long way, and there are a ton of options out there now.

Milk Supply

How will pumping affect my milk supply? Stacy says to think about it as “supply and demand.” When your breasts are empty of milk, it will tell the brain to produce more and more milk. So, when moms are over-pumping, they’re essentially telling their body to make more milk than what their baby actually needs. This is something to be aware of because you may experience complications down the road if you’re over-pumping, such as mastitis.

Milk Storage

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, you can store milk at room temperature for 4 hours or in the refrigerator for four days. You can also store your milk in the freezer for up to 12 months. If you’re storing your breast milk in the fridge, it’s best to separate the milk and place it in the back of your refrigerator. Also, keep in mind that milk is not homogenized, so over time, it will separate, but it’s still safe for your baby if you’ve followed the storage guidelines.

Nipple Soreness

If you’re like many women out there who get sore nipples after breastfeeding or pumping, Stacy recommends using your breast milk and smoothing it around the nipple area. Lanolin cream is commonly used to help soothe sore nipples, but if you’re sensitive to wool, your breast may become even more irritated. There are also pumping sprays out there, and you can even make your own spray at home. Stacy says take fractionated coconut oil, put it in a spray bottle, and squirt it into your flange. This is going to help lubricate your breast tissue and alleviate discomfort.

We hope that these tips and tricks will help make the breast pumping process easier for you!

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