As you think about preparing to breastfeed, you may be thinking about pumping as well. Everyone’s experience is different. Many moms successfully breastfeed well into the toddler years without ever touching a pump. Others begin their pumping journey within hours of birth.
Every baby is unique, but either way, a little knowledge up front can help you prepare for what might lie ahead and ensure you and your little one get off to a good start.
1. Learn to express by hand first
Using your hands is a convenient and effective way to express milk, especially early on. You can use this technique to tempt your baby to feed with the smell of your yummy milk or to help relieve the discomfort of breastfeeding engorgement. If your newborn doesn’t have a strong feeding reflex, you can use your hands to express your colostrum to make sure they still receive all of the protective benefits of your liquid gold. Ask a healthcare professional to show you how, or look for videos and guidance online. Once your milk comes in (usually after two to four days), if baby is unable to feed at the breast and you need to express larger amounts, you may want to move on to using a breast pump.
2. Express early and often to start your milk supply
While it’s ideal to initiate breastfeeding right away, if your baby doesn’t have a strong feeding reflex or is having a difficult time latching, you can still get your milk supply off to a good start. Seek lactation support and begin expressing as soon as possible (ideally within two hours of giving birth.) Advocate for yourself and your baby and make your wishes to breastfeeding known to your healthcare provider, ideally before giving birth. Aim to express as often as your baby would feed – at least eight to ten times every 24 hours, including at least once during the night.1
3. You may be able to get your pump for free
Really! Most insurance will cover the cost of a breast pump for new mothers. Check with your provider for your coverage or check out our insurance locator to be connected with preferred breast pump suppliers who can walk you through the entire process. Most insurance companies allow you to get your pump while you’re still pregnant, so it’s one less thing to think about once baby arrives.
4. Choose the right pump for your needs
If you plan to only pump occasionally, you may prefer a manual breast pump - it’s light, compact and convenient to use anywhere. It doesn’t require batteries or power, but you can only pump one breast at a time. It also makes a great backup to keep in the car.
If you intend to express regularly or need more efficiency, a double electric pump is the best option. A double pump saves time by allowing you to express from both breasts at once, and research suggests it increases the amount of milk you collect too.2
Another great tool to think about is a breastmilk collector or silicone breast pump. It’s an easy way to collect milk from one side while your baby is feeding on the other.
5. Look for adjustable settings
When a baby breastfeeds, they start with short, rapid sucks to stimulate your milk let-down reflex. Once your milk flows, they draw it out with slower, deeper sucks. Some pumps, like the Lansinoh Smartpump are designed to make the switch automatically and have adjustable settings to let you adjust suction and speed for your comfort.
6. Storage solutions
You might be a little overwhelmed right now, thinking about all of the new “stuff” and responsibilities that come with a new baby. This part is key: let others help. They usually want to, and washing bottles and pump parts can help your partner or family member feel more connected to the feeding process. Some pumps, like Lansinoh pumps, let you pump directly into a feeding bottle or a breastmilk storage bag which you can refrigerate or freeze. This is super-convenient and means fewer bottles to wash at the end of the day! Plus, fewer transfers from container to container mean there are fewer chances of spilling that hard-earned milk!
7. Relax and take care of yourself
This one is definitely easier said than done with a new little, but relaxing can help stimulate your let-down reflex to make pumping easier. Try to pump when you aren’t rushed and won’t be interrupted. Relax and think about your baby or look at a photo or video of them, making that mind-milk connection. Heat and massage can help, too. Try applying warmed 3-in-1 Breast Therapy Packs and lightly massaging your breasts before pumping.
8. Be patient with yourself
Learning any new skill can be challenging at first, but stick with it, and the rewards will be worth the effort. Seek out the support of a lactation professional, friends, and family members or even an online community. Be gentle with yourself. You got this, mama.
1 .NICE (2006) Clinical Guideline 37: Postnatal care up to 8 weeks after birth. National Collaborating Centre for Primary Care. Available at: https://www.nice.org.uk/guidance/cg37.
2 Simultaneous breast expression in breastfeeding women is more efficacious than sequential breast expression. www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23039397
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