breastfeeding, spectra baby usa

I Think I Want to Use a Breast Pump. Now What?

by Bonne Dunham. IBCLC

Ok, you are making milk and you want to pump…now what?  What kind of pump do I use? How often should I be pumping and when? How much milk should I expect to see come out? These are just a few of the many questions that new mothers often ask when taking their first journey down Pumping Lane. You are not alone!  Here are some tidbits that should help with this journey.

What kind of pump should I use?  Not all pumps are created equally.  When selecting a pump, you need to ask yourself what kind of use you will want from it; will you be an occasional user or a daily user?  For the occasional-use-mother, who plans on pumping once or twice a week, a manual pump, also called a hand pump, might be a reasonable and affordable choice.  For the regular-use-mother who is planning to use the pump daily while away at work or school, an efficient, electric double pump will likely be the best pump choice.

A hospital strength pump is a more powerful machine; it’s the Cadillac of pumps! It is oftentimes issued by a Lactation Consultant as a multi-user pump or obtained through insurance as a personal use pump.  This pump is used to help mothers build a milk supply when separated from their babies, as in, preterm deliveries or when baby needs to spend some time in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU).  There are a handful of other maternal health conditions that make it more difficult for a woman to make milk. A hospital grade pump might be a good option if you fall into this category. Speaking with an IBCLC for specific guidance in these scenarios would be the best option.

How often should I be pumping and when?  If you are planning on exclusively pumping, then you will want to pump at least 8-12 times a day to keep your milk supply up, especially until your baby starts on solids.  If you are breastfeeding and hoping to create a milk stash, here are some tips for you:

The bottom line is, you can pump whenever you have a free, and often hard to come by, moment. If you want to maximize your pumping output, pumping in the morning hours when  milk supply is at its highest is the best time. Waiting about 30-60 minutes after a breastfeeding session is ideal. Pumping once or twice a day is often enough if you are looking to make your storage stash, but if you are separated from your baby for whatever reason, you will want to try to pump as often as your baby may have fed during that time. This often looks like every 3 hours or so.

How long should I pump each time?  Most moms need to pump for at least 10 minutes, but no longer than 20-30 minutes is the simple answer. It’s always a good idea to pump 5-7 minutes past the last drop of milk.

How much milk will I be able to pump?  A good thing to know is that if you are pumping between breastfeeding sessions, the average mom will express between 1-3 ounces per session combined breasts  (not per breast).  If you are pumping in lieu of a missed feeding, expect to pump around 3-4 ounces. Keep in mind that this amount can vary based on your breast storage capacity.  If your pumping output is less than this and you are concerned, please reach out to a qualified lactation consultant to help you troubleshoot your concern.

Try not to compare yourself to your friends or co-workers, as some mothers may be able to express far more than the average bear. Every ounce is precious and pumping output is not a good indication of milk supply. So, always seek professional guidance from a trained specialist in the area of lactation (IBCLC).  You can find a Spectra Certified IBCLC near you here.

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