In The Guide
When I got into the world of pumping, I was really confused. There’s not a lot of information online, and I didn’t know anyone else who used one.
I was a busy mom, and like a lot of other people, I wanted to breastfeed.
But we needed to pay the bills, and that meant I wouldn’t be able to be the stay-at-home mom that would have made this easy.
This is becoming a common story for more and more moms. We’re busy people, and we can’t always be around to breastfeed. Even if you’re a stay-at-home mom.
I mean, sometimes we just want to have a nap, and you could blame us? Being a mom is a tiring job!
If you’re reading this, you must be interested in pumping your breast milk. If so, you’re definitely not alone; more and more moms are choosing to pump these days. I know that getting into the world of pumping can be scary and daunting: it definitely was for me.
My Favorite Breast Pump
If I had to pick one single pump, I’d go with the Medela Pump in Style Advanced (click here to check price), the version that comes with the travel tote.
It’s just amazing and I don’t know what I’d do without it. It’s a double electric breast pump that can be used either plugged into the wall or with AA batteries, which is really nice.
It doesn’t run that long on batteries, though. It’s really only meant as a backup, or for times when you need to pump but can’t be around an outlet. Like at work, maybe.
This pump is really popular in online pumping communities, and there’s no wonder why. It’s not super expensive like hospital-grade pumps, but it’s really high quality and awesome to use. It has adjustable settings to make it as comfortable as you need, and it’s designed to simulate a nursing baby to be as efficient as possible.
This model comes with a freezer tote bag for on-the-go pumping, and it holds 4 bottles and the pump, which is really nice. It should keep milk cool for up to 12 hours!
What Are The Benefits of Pumping Breast Milk?
So, what exactly are the benefits of pumping? There are a few!
- First of all, if you’re a working mom or just busy and spend a lot of time away from home, sometimes it’s just impossible to be around at all times to breastfeed. If this sounds like you, a breast pump might be exactly what you need; they let you pump milk and store it for use later, or you can leave it with your baby’s caretaker.
- It also means that you don’t always have to be around when it comes to feeding time. If you’re enlisting your husband or someone else to help you introduce your baby to the bottle, they’ll have a bottle full of milk for the job. Hey, you can even take a feeding break yourself!
- Breast pumps can also be used to help stimulate milk production and increase your supply. In fact, they are sometimes recommended by doctors for this purpose! They’re also very useful for moms with premature babies or those who can’t latch. If you have painful, engorged breasts, a pump is a good way to relieve them, too.
- Finally, pumping can be very useful if you’re going to have to stop breastfeeding for any given reason. For example, if you’re going to be switching to a medication, your doctor might recommend stopping breastfeeding, in which case building up a supply in advance can be a lifesaver.
OK, I Want to Pump! What Do I Need?
- Breast Pump: The most important part! There are different types available that we’ll discuss below.
- Storage Bottles or Bags: You’ll need somewhere to store the pumped milk, and storage bags and bottles are the best solution. You’ll need some that connect directly to your particular pump, so make sure you get compatible ones.
- Cooler or Ice Pack: If you’re going to be pumping at work, you’ll need somewhere cool to store the bottles or bags.
- Bottle Brush & Soap: You’ll want to wash the bottles and pump out after every use.
How Do I Decide On The Best Breast Pump For Me?
Okay, so you want to pump! That’s awesome!
Now you need to decide on which breast pump is ideal for you. First and foremost, you’re going to have to decide on a budget. Breast pumps can be pretty expensive, but if you can budget yourself about$150 you can get a pretty good one.
Comparing The Types of Breast Pumps Available
There are a few different types of breast pumps out there, but they can be broken down into two basic types: electric and manual. There are also what are referred to as “hospital-grade” breast pumps.
What Are “Hospital Grade” Breast Pumps?
First of all, this is not an official term, and there’s nothing specific to differentiate between a hospital-grade pump and a non-hospital grade pump. In fact, the FDA recently released a report on breast pumps where they stated:
“Sometimes these pumps are labeled “hospital grade,” says Daws-Kopp. “But that term is not one FDA recognizes, and there is no consistent definition. Consumers need to know it doesn’t mean the pump is safe or hygienic.”
However, the term is often used to describe high end pumps that are generally reserved for moms who have difficulty expressing milk & using breast pumps. They’re also often supplied by the hospital, and are meant for temporary (and not full-time) use.
The term is also used by insurance companies who offer breast pumps and rentals to moms. They break them down into 3 categories: hospital grade, personal-grade, and manual.
However, the classification is down to the manufacturer, and there are no performance guidelines to dictate which classification a particular pump should get.
Having said that…
Most pumps labeled “hospital grade” are simply high end pumps that are often excellent and they do have their purpose. They’re great for moms that have difficulty breastfeeding or producing milk, or for those with preemies.
They are usually double pumps, which a wide range of settings and functions to make pumping not only fast but efficient and comfortable.
They’re available for purchase, but are often supplied by the hospital to new moms, and they’re meant for daily, heavy use. If you’re not sure that you need a “hospital grade” pump, then you probably don’t.
High-End Electric Breast Pumps: For Busy Moms & Frequent Pumpers
These pumps run on either battery or electric power and are faster and more efficient, draining milk super quickly to get the job done as fast as possible.
This is great if you’re pumping with not a lot of time to spare (hello, moms on lunch break!) and many of them can be used hands-free. I don’t think I need to tell you how great that can be. Unfortunately, they tend to be a lot more expensive, so if you’re a mommy on a budget they might not fit.
These pumps are usually double pumps, meaning you can pump from both breasts at the same time, making them twice as fast and efficient. Yep, these suckers get the job done!
They tend to come with convenient carrying cases (or they’ll have them available) to make them easy to transport, and some models have car adapters, making them great for the mom on-the-go. They often have a variety of settings to pump exactly how quickly you need to and adjustable suction to avoid nipple discomfort.
Some also mimic breastfeeding to stimulate milk expression and make them as efficient as possible.
These high-end pumps are the most popular choice for moms who are busy and don’t have a lot of time to spare, or find themselves away from home a lot of time during the day. If you’re going to be a heavy user, these are going to be the best for you.
Pros & Cons of High-End Electric Breast Pumps
- Much faster at pumping
- Hands-free models are super convenient!
- Some models have settings to closely mimic breastfeeding to promote milk expression
- Double pump models make for very efficient pumping
- More expensive than most manual pumps
- Need either battery or electric power; don’t get stuck without it!
- A bit overkill if you only plan on pumping once in a while
- Some models are noisy; not good if you want to be discreet
Single-Electric Breast Pumps: For Stay-at-Home Moms and Daily Pumpers
Further down the list we have these mid-range pumps. They share a lot of qualities with their more expensive sisters, but they’re meant more for parents who don’t spend a lot of time from home or don’t need to pump frequently.
They’re generally single-breast pumps, and they take more time and effort to use than their higher-priced counterparts. There are some double-breast pumps available at this price range, but they’re few and far between.
They also tend not to be as portable as high-end models, but that’s fine if you don’t plan on pumping away from home anyway. They also tend to be slower, but that’s fine if you fit the demographic they’re suited for, too.
If you’re a mom that only spends short amounts of time away from your baby and wishes to leave the babysitter with breast milk to feed then instead of supplementing with formula, this can be a great option that won’t break the bank.
Pros & Cons of Mid-Range Electric Breast Pumps
- Faster pumping than manual models
- Cheaper than high-end and hospital-grade pumps
- Leaves your hands free to do other things
- Most models are single-pumps; slower than double
- Generally not portable
Manual Breast Pumps: For Infrequent Pumpers & Moms on a Budget
Manual pumps are generally a lot cheaper, at the expense of having to do everything by hand. This can make them a lot slower and less convenient to use, but it’s a good trade-off for not having to spend nearly as much.
They require 2 hands to use and your full attention to use (although there are a couple of 1-hand models) and a lot more effort than electric pumps.
While most moms who plan on pumping regularly will opt for an electric pump, many do praise the fact that manual pumps are simple and small, making them easy to throw in a diaper bag. They’re also nearly silent, making them attractive to some moms who want to pump in public but don’t want anyone to hear it.
Another benefit of hand pumps is that you can pump on one side while your baby nurses on the other, and the quiet function of the pump won’t bother baby.
All in all, manual breast pumps aren’t the most efficient or easy to use, but they do have their fans.
Pros & Cons of Manual Breast Pumps
- Generally much cheaper than electric models
- Tend to be small and portable
- Usually very quiet; great if you need to be discreet
- Much slower and more work than electric pumps
- Not as fully-featured; don’t mimic breastfeeding
Personally, I like electric pumps; the convenience and speed simply can’t be beat. If you plan on pumping regularly, I really couldn’t recommend a manual pump; it’s going to be a huge pain in the behind for any kind of extended use. Do yourself a favor and get a good electric breast pump. You’ll thank me for it!
Getting Started With Pumping
If you’ve made the decision to pump, you’ll want to get started as soon as possible! If you can manage it, start pumping in the hospital, which will help you get acquainted with it, too.
If you don’t have one, try to borrow one from the hospital; if you let the nurses know, they’ll likely accommodate you.
When you first start pumping, a session might not produce much, but don’t get disappointed! This is a vital time to begin to establish a good supply. You won’t regret it.
Be Sure To Establish a Routine
The best thing you can do is establish a pumping routine. Doing so will get your body adjusted to the routine of pumping, and you’ll produce more milk as a result. Keep the following things in mind:
- Newborns eat around 8-12 times a day, so aim for pumping that much, too.
- When you first start out with pumping, feed your baby, and then once they’re full, set them somewhere safe and pump.
- Be prepared to pump all hours of the day! This is the best way to train your body to get adjusted to pumping, and late-night sessions tend to produce the most.
- Aim to pump for around 20 minutes; experts agree that this is around the ideal amount of time. Any less and you risk a drop in your supply, and any more tends to not have any real positive effect.
- After you pump, store the milk safely!
Pumping Tips & Tricks
- Pumping can be time consuming, especially if you do it often. Make yourself comfortable and set it up near the TV, if possible. If music is your thing, get a nice pair of headphones. If you have an electric pump, you could also do it at the computer.
- If you find the pump flanges are causing friction and discomfort, coating the inside with olive oil can make it much more comfortable.
- Eat foods that promote milk production. A healthy diet is super important when breastfeeding or pumping, and you’ll want to eat a lot of healthy foods. Oatmeal, fruits and veggies and lean meats are great for the pumping mommy.
- Stay hydrated! It’s very easy to become dehydrated and not even know it if you’re a frequent pumper.
- Don’t overdo it with the settings! You might think that the most productive way to use the pump is to crank it to 11, but that’s really not the case. Start out on the lowest setting and see how it goes, while slowly increasing if need be.
- Take care of yourself! Get enough rest and sleep; you deserve it. Stressing out and lack of sleep can also have an effect on your supply.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are some common questions I hear about pumping.
If you have any that aren’t answered here, please let me know in the comments section below and I’d be happy to answer it!
How Much Milk Will I Get?
This is going to vary greatly from mom to mom, so there’s no real answer, and don’t compare yourself to any experience you hear about from another mom.
Here are some things to consider that may help set your mind at ease.
- All moms produce different amounts of milk, and it’s not a competition.
- It’s completely normal for one breast to produce more milk than the other.
- Breastfed babies take in varying amounts of milk in each feeding session, so it’s totally normal to produce varying amounts of milk between sessions.
- Breastfed babies drink much less milk than those on formula.
- If you feel like you should be producing more, consider keeping a daily log. It might help you find the culprit that’s decreasing your production.
How often do I need to pump?
You’ll ideally be pumping every 2 or 3 hours, for about 20 minutes at a time. It’s ideal to pump around the clock, as this promotes milk production; yes, this means during the night, too! It’s not easy, but it’s worth it.
When can I stop pumping this often?
This varies from mom to mom, but generally you can start to pump less once your supply is well established. There’s no need to cram your freezer full of milk, so don’t go crazy if you don’t need to.
How often you need to pump to keep your supply up will vary, but as long as you keep a satisfactory supply, you should be fine.
When will my supply be fully established?
Again, this varies, but you can expect it to take about 12 weeks. Your supply is considered “established” when it is based on supply & demand as opposed to your hormone levels.
In order to check if your supply is established, keep a log for a few days. Keep track of how much fluids you took in, what time you pumped, the output of each breast, what you ate that day, etc.
If you notice that your supply stays consistent, you are probably fine to pump less often.
How long does breast milk keep?
In general, you can use the following guidelines:
- Room temperature: 4-6 hours
- In the fridge: Up to a week
- In a fridge freezer: Up to 3 months
- In a deep freezer: 6-12 months
Once frozen milk is defrosted, it should be used within 24 hours. Also, keep in mind that these are just rough guidelines; if you feel that milk is no longer good, don’t risk it.
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