Learning to use a breast pump may take time and dedication, but the effort is worth it. Read our expert tips on pumping your milk to help you on your way to effective pumping
As with all worthwhile skills, it may take some time to familiarize yourself with using a breast pump. The key is to be patient, even if you cannot extract a large amount immediately. After all, the breast pump or spectra breast pump comparison won't cause the same feelings in you as your baby. But, over time, your body will learn to activate your milk ejection reflex when you pump, so the amount of milk expressed should increase.
You don't need to rush to express milk ...
During the first four weeks, you and your baby will work together to start and establish your milk supply. If your baby is healthy and breastfeeding is going well, you won't need a pump for this. However, pumping is very useful if you have to be separated from your baby at any time (see the next tip). If not, enjoy these moments with your baby and rest assured that even if you plan to express milk regularly in the future, you do not need to "train" your body to express milk during the first few weeks.
Unless your baby cannot breastfeed
If your baby cannot feed directly to the breast, perhaps because he is premature or has special needs, or if you have to be separated for any reason, begin double expressing breast milk as soon as possible after delivery.
Studies show that starting to express during the first hours (at the time when a healthy newborn usually takes his first feed) helps mothers produce a greater volume of milk in the first days and weeks, so it offers babies the best option to be fed exclusively with their own mother's milk.
If you expect your baby or babies to be born prematurely, require intensive care, or have a problem that makes breastfeeding difficult, prepare in advance. Get information about pumping, purchase the equipment you may need, and enlist the help of a healthcare professional, specialist, or lactation consultant.
There is probably a double breast pump for hospital use in your hospital or maternity unit, so ask the staff to show you how to use it. It is important to express milk at the time your baby would, that way, your breasts receive the message that they should continue to produce milk. Try 8-10 pumping sessions every 24 hours at first, and keep this frequency when the milk rises.
Control the times
Your first pump session should last at least 15 minutes. Don't worry if you don't get a lot of milk at first; This additional and regular suction will soon stimulate your breasts to produce more milk.
Some mothers indicate that if they express an hour after a feeding, they get more milk; others prefer to pump just after alternate feedings. Express milk at different times to see which one best suits your situation. When you find the times that are right for you, stick with them so that your body gets used to the use of the breast pump and the extra demand on your milk supply. You may be tempted to increase the time between pumpings in an attempt to obtain a greater volume of milk. However, if you wait for your breasts to be full, a pumping session will not completely empty them., so the key is to express milk frequently and regularly.
Always wash your hands before and after each pump, and clean all parts of the pump that have been in contact with your milk or the baby's mouth. You will also need to disinfect them after cleaning at least once a day. Make sure all parts are completely dry so that you can store the extraction set in a clear bag or container until the next use.
To avoid interruptions during your pumping session, have everything you need on hand before you begin. You may want a drink and something to eat, a phone or TV remote control, bottles or bags to store expressed milk, and a muslin washcloth to clean up any drips.
A specially designed extraction clip will keep your hands free, making it easier for you to operate the controls and allowing you to do other things during the extraction.
Make yourself comfortable
The best position for extraction is one that allows you to be relaxed. Being relaxed is essential to release the hormone oxytocin, which stimulates your milk ejection reflex. Discomfort and distractions can get in the way of this process 5so choose a private and comfortable place, and make sure your arms and back are well supported during the extraction.
If you're not wearing a pull-out bra, hold the funnel with your thumb and index finger, and use the palm of your hand and the rest of your fingers to support your breast. Hold the funnel carefully against your chest; Pressing too hard can compress the breast tissue and obstruct the flow of milk.
Some mothers take deep breaths, listen to soothing music, perform visualization techniques, or ask their partners to massage their back and shoulders to help them express more milk.
Stimulates milk ejection
Most of Medela's electric and battery-powered breast pumps feature 2-Phase Expression technology, which simulates the way the baby feeds (with a quick, light suction followed by a slower, stronger suction) to help stimulate the ejection of milk. A breast massage before and during the extraction, as well as heating them with a warm compress (such as a washcloth) before pumping, they help stimulate the flow of milk and increase the amount collected.
Scientists have found that skin-to-skin contact with your baby before and during pumping can also help pump more milk 8. This is because the warmth and contact of your baby's skin against yours allows the release of oxytocin in your body. In fact, some mothers find that pumping works better if they feed the baby from the other breast because of the extra stimulation.
If your baby is not with you, try to see a photo or video in which he comes out, or to smell one of his clothes, during the extraction. Being able to connect with your baby while pumping is another way to raise your oxytocin levels and increase your milk flow.
Take advantage of your milk flow
Many mothers do not notice the milk being ejected, so pay attention while you pump. When you start to see streams of breast milk pouring into the bottle or pouch, you know what is happening.
If you use a breast pump with 2-Phase Expression technology, you will have a stimulation mode and a pump mode at your disposal. The stimulation mode usually lasts about two minutes, and it is important that when you see the milk flow in the way described above, you switch to the extraction phase. The reason for this is that the first ejection usually provides approximately 36% of the milk volume, so you will be taking advantage of your flow to collect more milk.
Find your comfort zone
During the extraction phase, use the maximum tolerable vacuum, which is the highest extraction setting you can use while remaining comfortable. Studies have shown that a similar amount of milk is obtained to that received by a baby during a feeding.
To find out which level is right for you, gradually increase the suction power of the breast pump until you feel slight discomfort, then lower one level.
Adapt the duration of your pumping sessions
After establishing your supply (after about four to six weeks), you can begin to tailor the duration of your extractions, which will save you a lot of time. Some mothers need to express milk for
longer than others due to the number of milk ejections, which will determine the frequency and duration of milk flows. What is really surprising is that each mother has a different flow pattern: yours will be the same each time you express milk or breastfeed.
So how can you tell what your pattern is? Choose a time when you normally express the greatest volume of milk and observe the expression, noting when the jets of milk start to come out of the nipple or when the milk begins to drip into the container throughout the session.
A mother who only has milk ejections at the beginning of the session will have expressed most of her milk in 8 to 10 minutes, so holding the pump for longer will not give her more milk. In contrast, a mother who has many milk ejections or throughout the entire extraction, may need to express for 15 minutes or more to empty the breast completely.