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Shawnee Mission Medical Center Health Blog

Using a breast pump

Posted by Sarah Eisenbraun on Sep 9, 2013 11:37:00 AM


Breastfeeding can establish a lasting bond between you and your newborn baby, but sometimes there are moments when you may need to be physically separated from one another, such as if you return to work or just want to spend a private night away to reconnect with friends or your partner.

At moments such as these, a breast pump can be useful in making sure you can continue to provide nourishment to your baby without being physically present. For new moms, using a breast pump can seem intimidating — after all, you will first need to choose a breast pump, learn how to use it, and then find a way to safely store your breast milk.

Choosing the right breast pump

Breast pumps can usually range anywhere between $50 and $1,500, so it can be difficult to choose a breast pump based on the price range alone, not to mention the features each breast pump offers.

There are mainly 4 different styles of breast pumps to choose from: hospital- or rental-grade breast pumps, consumer-grade electric breast pumps, small electric or battery-powered breast pumps, and manual breast pumps.

Hospital- or rental-grade breast pumps are usually the most expensive, and are best reserved for home use due to their large and bulky size. Hospital- and rental-grade breast pumps work most similarly to a baby’s sucking and are often the most efficient when it comes to pumping.

Consumer-grade electric breast pumps usually cost between $200 and $300 and come in a discreet carrying case complete with all the accessories you need for pumping. A consumer-grade pump is most ideal for women who will need to pump throughout the day as a result of being away from baby for long periods of time.

Small electric or battery-powered pumps usually cost no more than $50, and are ideal for moms who are rarely away from their babies and need to pump for an occasional night out. These small pumps are often less efficient with milk production, and could result in poor milk production if used on a consistent basis.

Manual breast pumps cost around $30 and work similarly to a small electric or battery-powered pump, only your own hand is used to express the pump. Most manual breast pumps result in efficient milk production, as long as you can manage to express the pump with your hand as needed.

Lactation consultants say that the secret to efficient pumping is making sure that the flanges fit properly and comfortably around the nipple. In most cases, mothers are recommended to buy flanges one size up to ensure that they comfortably fit the nipples when they expand during pumping sessions.

Maximizing breast milk production

The amount of milk you can produce in one sitting varies largely from one mom to the next. Some moms may be able to produce up to 10 ounces of milk within 10 minutes, whereas other moms can produce up to 20 ounces of milk within the same amount of time. Either way, there are steps you can take to make sure you’re getting the most out of your breast pumping sessions.

First, hold your breast with your thumb resting above the nipple, and your fingers on the lower part of the breast. Next, gently lift your breast up, and find a hard spot on the top of your breast known as the glandular tissue. Then, press down firmly on the glandular tissue without pumping. When you’ve found the right spot, milk will start spurting out of your nipple as a result of the pressure and you can initiate the pumping process.

When your breast milk stops flowing, locate another hard spot of glandular tissue and repeat the steps above. In some cases, you may be able to express an extra few ounces of milk after pumping sessions using just your hand.

Storing pumped breast milk

Pumped breast milk is known to stay fresh for longer periods of time than formula milk, as long as it is stored safely and properly. The safest way to handle breast milk is to wash your hands and move the breast milk to a heavy-duty bag or clean screw-cap bottle that is not prone to breaking easily.

Make sure you label the milk with the date it was expressed so you can use the oldest milk first at feeding times.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), breast milk can be stored and used safely at room temperature up to 77 degrees Fahrenheit within 6 to 8 hours. In an insulated cooler, fresh breast milk can be kept up to 24 hours, and for up to 5 days in a refrigerator.

In a small freezer compartment, fresh breast milk can be stored and used within 2 weeks, and for up to 6 months in a freezer that has its own separate door. When stored in a deep freeze, breast milk can be kept and used for up to 12 months.

The safest way to thaw frozen breast milk is in the refrigerator, or in a bowl of lukewarm water. Breast milk should never be thawed in a microwave, since a microwave will remove all the vital nutrients from your baby’s milk supply.

Shawnee Mission Medical Center is dedicated to helping new mothers form a healthy and lasting bond with their newborn infants. Our Birth Center gives mothers access to a spa-like labor and delivery atmosphere, lactation specialists, and a breastfeeding support group. Contact Shawnee Mission Medical Center today to learn more about our maternity services.

Topics: Mommy & Me

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