Many lactating parents choose to pump breast milk at some point during their breastfeeding journey. The reasons a parent may decide to pump may determine what pump they choose, how often to pump and for how long. Before choosing a pump, check with your insurance for any coverage, decide on a budget, and see how easy it is to buy replacement parts.
There are many different brands of breast pumps at different price points with various features. They all fit into one of two categories — open or closed systems. Open systems are meant for single users with one baby. There is no backflow protection, meaning milk can flow through the tubing into the motor. These systems should not be shared or sold secondhand. Most Medela models are open-system. Closed systems have backflow protection, meaning milk cannot get into the tubing or the motor. Ameda, Spectra and hospital grade pumps are all closed systems and safe for multiple users as long as new pump kits are used for each child.
There are three different types of breast pumps
- Manual pumps are ideal for occasional use. They are affordable and small.
- Single electric pumps allow you to pump faster and more efficiently but only one side at a time. These are great for occasional use.
- Double electric pumps are efficient and great for exclusive and frequent pumpers.
Recently Haakaa (and similar) “pumps” have become very popular. These are ideal for collecting leakage on the opposite side than you are pumping or feeding from. It’s important to understand that these are not true pumps. They help collect milk with mild suction and minimal stimulation, but they are not an active pump; they won’t increase your milk supply.
Flange size is very important to effective pumping. Most manufacturers have a size guide online. If you can measure your nipple size before deciding on a pump, you can get an estimate of your flange size. Some manufacturers have more flange size options than others, which should be considered when choosing your pump. If the nipple is touching the sides of the tube, the flange is too small. If the areola is getting pulled into the tube, the flange is too large.
Clean your breast pump before feedings
Cleaning is essential to protecting your baby and ensuring the breast milk does not become contaminated by bacteria. Before pumping, wash your hands with soap and warm water, then assemble your pump kit. After each use, take the pump kit apart and rinse all parts contaminated with milk under running water. Use hot soapy water and a brush to scrub all parts, rinse thoroughly and let air-dry. Using a microwave, plug-in system, dishwasher (on sterilize) or pot of boiling water, sterilize all pump parts at least once daily and let parts air-dry. Once dry, store in a clean place such as a zippered storage bag. If you cannot thoroughly wash your parts between each use, invest in extra pump kits, so you always have clean parts available.
TIP: Keep an extra set of tubing and soft parts like the valves and membranes on hand as these parts can tear easily.
Learning how to power pump while breastfeeding
If you are pumping to replace a feed, you will need to pump about every 2-3 hours or as often as your baby is feeding while you are away. Pump until the milk stops flowing; massaging your breast with one hand while pumping can help fully empty the breast.
If you are pumping to increase your milk supply, pump after your baby eats for 15-20 minutes. You may not get any milk (that’s OK!). Add one to three power pumping sessions per day. These should happen at the same time each day and may take three to seven days to see any increase in milk supply.
- Pump for 20 minutes
- Rest for 10 minutes
- Pump for 10 minutes
- Rest for 10 minutes
- Pump for 10 minutes
If you are pumping for a freezer stash to give your baby occasional bottles, you can use a Haakaa or similar product that collects the leaking milk when feeding or pumping off the other breast. When storing your milk, remember “the rule of six”: breast milk can spend six hrs at room temperature without spoiling, six days in the fridge and six months frozen.
Some people can collect enough throughout the day for at least one bottle. Otherwise, use your pump of choice one to two times per day. Many parents will pump after the first feed of the day or right before bed, but you can pump whenever it fits into your schedule. Generally, having about 1.5-2 oz per hour, you will be gone should be enough. Babies need about 24-32 oz of breastmilk or formula per day.