How to use an electric breast pump effectively

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Overcoming Your Pumping Concerns 

When I found out I was pregnant, I knew that I wanted to breastfeed my daughter.  I knew that breastfeeding would take some work, but boy did I underestimate how much of a commitment it was!  My situation became even more complicated when I made the decision to exclusively pump and feed my breastmilk by bottle. 

Related: How to Exclusively Pump and Bottle Feed

Looking back, I now know I was a naïve first time mom.  I had no clue what I was getting myself into. I was determined to breastfeed my baby and I am glad that I surpassed my goal.  I would not have been successful without the support of fellow breastfeeding moms and other resources that helped to normalize some of the things I was experiencing.  

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Do I need a breast pump?

Most breastfeeding moms will have to express milk to feed their child at a later time.   The options to do so are hand expression, a manual pump, and an electric breast pump.  All three options are effective ways to express breastmilk.  Throughout my own pumping journey, I have found that the electric breast pump is the most effective way for me to express milk and in the quickest amount of time. 

Side note:I love my manual pump.  I rarely use it because of the amount of time it takes to empty my breasts.  I have found that my manual pump will clear clogged ducts more efficiently than my electric pump.  If I was not an exclusive pumper, I would have probably used my manual pump more often. 

After deciding to exclusively pump, I spent hours researching information about breastmilk production, utilizing an electric breast pump, and other tips to survive pumping.  I learned a lot of information I wish I would have known prior to starting my breastfeeding journey. 

One of the most valuable resources I came across was the Pumping Mom’s Academy. This course was created by a fellow exclusive pumper and goes over everything from using your pump, managing your milk supply, traveling while pumping, working and pumping, and anything you can think of related to exclusive pumpers. Trust me, you want to take this course!

Now, let me share some of the tips that have been helpful to me on pumping journey. 

What type of pump should I buy?

There are numerous electric breast pumps on the market.  It is very easy to get overwhelmed with your options.  For moms who are regularly separated from their babies, a double electric breast pump is the best way to go. 

Double electric breast pumps allow you to empty both breasts at the same time.  They have various speeds and suction strengths to mimic your baby’s breastfeeding patterns. 

Prior to purchasing your pump

Make sure the pump has a good warranty, offers various flange sizes, and offers reasonably priced replacement parts (I will talk more about this a little later).

When researching electric breast pumps, the two most recommended pumps are the Medela Pump In Style and the Spectra S1 pumps.  Both of these pumps have great reviews and offer similar features, with a few differences.  Mom Loves Best does a great job of highlight the differences between the two pumps. 

If you are curious, both Keyona and I use the Medela Pump in Style Advanced breast pumps.  I have spent 975 hours pumping over the course of 1.5 years and I do not have any major complaints about my breast pump. 

Other helpful accessories for your pump

The following additional accessories, will help you to make the best use of your pumping time.

Pumping bra – a pumping bra will allow you to pump hands free.  Great for multitasking!

Car adapter – make great use of your time in the car.  Driving to and from work are great times to pump in the car.  Be sure to use a pumping bra while driving.  We have to remain safe.

Pump bag – a spacious bag with compartments for all of your pumping parts is a must have.  I made sure that my pump bag was large enough to fit a few personal items so I do not have to carry a purse.

Cooler and ice pack – keeps your milk cool until you can place it in the fridge.

Cleansing wipes– just in case you need to clean your parts and do not have access to soap and water. 

Some pumps come with a pumping bag, cooler, and extra bottles.  This was a major factor when I choose my pump. 

Frequency and amount of time to pump

The first 12 weeks after you give birth, your body is regulating its milk supply.  During this time, it is important to feed your baby on demand.  Your baby’s cues helps to regulate your milk supply. 

(For help with feeding on demand, check out this book)

As you are establishing milk supply, you should be pumping and/or latching your baby at least 8 times per day.  After your body regulates, you can increase time between pumping sessions.  Remember you have to move milk to make milk. 

When pumping, you should plan to pump for at least 15 minutes and until you are empty.  Most women empty within the 15 minute time frame, but some require additional time.  Continue to pump for 2-5 minutes after milk stops flowing from your breasts.  If you are still within the first 12 weeks, pump for a minimum of 15 minutes, even if milk is no longer flowing.

Am I producing enough?

One of the biggest stressors of breastfeeding moms is their production of breastmilk.  Babies do not require a large volume of breastmilk to sustain.  The content of your breastmilk changes as your baby gets older, so your baby’s total intake remains pretty stable after 12 weeks. 

Your baby only requires 1-1.5 ounces of breastmilk per hour that you are away from him/her.  Make sure your baby’s caretaker is familiar with PACE feeding to prevent over feeding your baby. 

It is totally normal to have a slacker boob that produces less milk than your other breast.  Your milk production will vary throughout your breastfeeding journey due to your baby’s development, your own hormones, and other environmental factors. 

If you notice a sudden increase or decrease in your milk production, your body will usually regulate after a couple of days.

For working moms, finding time to pump at work can be challenging and can result in mother’s making the difficult decision to wean from breastfeeding. If you find yourself facing this struggle join our Facebook Group and learn what other mothers have done to continue their journey. 

Check to make sure your parts do not need to be replaced

Please be careful about using lactation teas or other supplements (especially those that contain Fenugreek).  While these things are effective for some women, they can have the opposite desired effect on other women.  If you are using supplements and notice a decrease in your production, discontinue its use. 

If after trying these methods and you continue to be concerned about your production, please consult with a certified lactation consultant or your doctor. 

When should I start pumping?

Most health professionals recommend that you wait a couple of weeks before you start to pump.  This allows you to get into a normal breastfeeding routine with your little one. It also allows your body to begin regulating its milk production.

If you pump too early, then you run the risk of overproducing milk.  Every time you empty your breasts, you are telling your body to produce more milk.  Some women prefer to have a large freezer stash in case of emergencies.  Just remember you only need to store enough milk for the next day feeding.

It is normal to produce just enough milk, especially if your baby latches.  Babies do a great job of regulating the amount of milk that they need.  As an exclusive pumper, I did not have my baby regulating my production, so I went through a period when I overproduced milk.  This meant for a great freezer stash, but was not necessary for my baby. 

Replacing pump parts

Your breast pump and its parts will wear out over time.  Certain parts you should have on hand because they need to be replaced more frequently.  Worn down parts can impact your pumps functionality and the amount of milk that is produced. 

The membranes will probably be replaced the most on your breast pump.  They should be replaced after every 60-80 sessions or if they no longer lay flat on the duck valve. 

Tubing should be replaced if there is moisture or milk in the tubing.  Running the pump for a minute after you disconnect the bottles, can help to dry out any moisture that may be in the tubing.

Any part that has mold should be immediately replaced. 

Frequent, long term, sterilization of your pump parts can also impact the parts.  This will cause you to have to replace the parts more frequently. 

Proper Flange sizes

Having an appropriate flange size can have a significant impact on the amount of milk that you pump.  Your flange size can change at any point during your breastfeeding journey. It is also possible for each of your breasts to require different flange sizes.

Pumping should not hurt.  Your nipple should fit in the center of the flange and should move freely while pumping. 

Your flange may be the wrong size if:

You have pain or discomfort while pumping.

Excessive areola is being pulled into the shield.

You have redness at the base of your nipple after pumping. Or nipple discoloration.

You don’t empty.

A lactation consultant can also assist you with determining your proper flange size.

What is up with my nipples?

I had no clue that my lovely bundle of joy would take my nipples hostage.  In the begging, your nipples will be sore.  After a couple of weeks, you will adjust.  Proper nipple care can make this adjustment period a little more bearable.

After pumping, allow your breasts to air dry for a few minutes.  Rub your breastmilk into your nipples to help alleviate soreness.  When showering, it is only necessary to clean your nipples with water. Frequently change your breast pads to prevent infections. 

Use a lanolin based nipple cream before and after you pump to help protect your nipples. 

Gel pads that utilize hot or cold therapy, are not only helpful for your nipples, but with other common breastfeeding conditions. 

Being successful with your breastfeeding goals takes commitment, but is rewarding for you and your baby.  At some point during your breastfeeding journey, you will have to express your milk to feed your baby at a later time. 

With a little knowledge and patience, an electric breast pump can be the most efficient way to express breastmilk. 

I found this great pumping course that uses videos, worksheets, and printables to help moms achieve their breastfeeding goals. Trust me, you need this course! It removes the stress from breastfeeding and allows you to sit back and enjoy your baby. It’s for moms like me who exclusively pump and moms who pump for work. It’s a game changer! Get your pumping course now.

What are some struggles that you had with your breast pump? What do you wish you would have known prior to using a breast pump?

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How to Use a Electric Breast Pump Effectively

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