Family Magazine

How to Use a Breast Pump and Breast Milk Storage Guidelines

By Hemapriya Natesan @MyLittleMoppet

Childbirth is one of the most wonderful but stressful experiences in the life of a woman. After hours of labor and the actual birth, the new mother is left feeling exhausted and sore all over. But even though it appears as if the entire pregnancy-birth phase has ended, a new one begins immediately - that of caring for the newborn! And of course, the most important of these is feeding the little baby - a brand new experience for both baby and Mom.

As a result, there can be many hiccups along the way, till both mother and child settle into a comfortable routine. In the meanwhile, there's no need for the baby to be deprived of her mother's milk; she can have it in a bottle, pumped from her mother's breast. And this is where the wonderful device called the breast pump enters the picture!

How to Use a Breast Pump and Breast Milk Storage Guidelines

Types of Breast Pumps

A breast pump works by creating a suction around the nipple, in a pull-and-release motion, similar to how an infant sucks from the breast. This action helps the letdown of milk and subsequent pumping creates a steady flow. Breast pumps are basically devices with three parts - a breast shield that fits over the breast, a pump that provides the pressure to release the milk and a container for the pumped milk. There can be many more additional parts depending upon the sophistication of the device.

Broadly speaking, breast pumps can be either manual or electric.

1. Manual Breast Pumps

How to Use a Breast Pump and Breast Milk Storage Guidelines

The pump parts of these devices need to be operated by hand, to create the suction that releases the milk. Manual breast pumps are generally simple and consist of only a few parts, but they may not be as effective, especially if the pumping action is not done right. It can also take longer to fill a small bottle with milk.

2. Electric Breast Pumps

How to Use a Breast Pump and Breast Milk Storage Guidelines

Electric breast pumps have a motorized pump that operates on electricity. All the Mom needs to do is to place the breast shield correctly and switch on the device. The pump creates the suction by itself and collects the milk in the container. These pumps are generally quite expensive, and require an electrical connection. They're easy to use and have variable speeds that can be adjusted according to the Mom's convenience.

This video from a popular breast pump manufacturer, Medela, describes the process of using an electric breast pump.

Breast pumps can be of great help to Moms who are having temporary problems with their baby latching on, but they're also invaluable to working Moms who can pump their milk and leave it for their baby to be fed while they're away at work. Here is a story of a working mother who exclusively breast fed her daughter for an entire year - only through pumping with a breast pump!

Swati's Real Life Pumping Success Story

The day was 30th June, 2014. I was at the St. Luke's Labor and Delivery Building in Chesterfield, MO, USA. I was nervous, since in just a few minutes, I was going to be wheeled into the OT for a scheduled C-section. Suddenly a nurse came into my room and said, "How are you feeling lady? Within a few minutes, you will be holding your baby in your arms!" Oh, yes! I was nervous but really excited too! The nurse was slowly pulling my bed towards the OT. They gave me an epidural. I was holding my breath. All I knew in that moment that in a short while, my angel would be in my arms. After the epidural, I was completely numb and I have no idea what they were doing on the other side of the green curtain. Suddenly, I heard that magical sound - my baby's first cry.

How to Use a Breast Pump and Breast Milk Storage Guidelines

We moved to our room. The nurse was trying to teach me how to breastfeed and the different positions I could try. I was trying as well as I could with my newborn, but nothing was working - she just kept crying! We tried for an hour but she couldn't latch on properly and finally fell asleep. We tried again several times through the day, but it still wasn't working. When they weighed her, they said that she had lost too much weight and advised switching to formula. I agreed, but continued to try to breast feed as well. The next day, the nurse asked me if I was willing to use a breast pump, before moving to formula. I agreed and tried a hospital grade breast pump for the first time. The rest, as they say, is history!! I've been pumping for a year now, and my baby has never had to have a formula supplement since then.

Benefits of Using a Breast Pump

There are several advantages to pumping, and they're not just for babies with latching difficulties.

  1. Whenever you are not around, the baby can be fed by some one else, leaving you free for at least some time
  2. Moms who pump can sleep through the night, when Dads can take on night feedings.
  3. For working Moms with very few days of maternity leave, their babies can get the benefits of breast milk even when Mommy is at work
  4. The baby can be fed when the mother isn't well, thus avoiding catching a cold or fever from her
  5. Moms can pump milk before a journey and feed babies the pumped milk while travelling. This way, they don't need to worry about exposing their breasts in public
  6. Siblings can get a chance to feed the baby and bond with them
How to Use a Breast Pump and Breast Milk Storage Guidelines

Pumping helps babies get all the benefits of breast feeding, but pumping requires more care. Since the milk doesn't reach the baby directly from the source, there is a chance of contamination and subsequent infection. Here are a few guidelines on how to use a breast pump to help you manage a successful pumping system:

  1. Fresh breast milk can be kept at room temperature for 4-6 hrs
  2. Fresh breast milk can be kept in the refrigerator for 5-7 days
  3. Breast milk can be kept in a deep freezer for 6 months
  4. To thaw breast milk, run it under warm water or use a bottle warmer (I use Dr. Brown)
  5. Do not thaw breast milk in a microwave or oven
  6. Store in 2-4 ounce portions so that you can feed your baby according to her hunger level
  7. Always store your breast milk in breast milk storage bottles or bags.
  8. Clean and sterilize your bottles
  9. Never reuse breast milk storage bags
How to Use a Breast Pump and Breast Milk Storage Guidelines

To boost your milk supply, pump every 3-4 hrs, even if you need to wake up at midnight! Always use double breast pumps (I use the Medela Electric double pump) so that it can empty both breasts at the same time.Try to pump for 20 mins during each session, and keep pumping till you see the last drop.

It's true that feeding your baby directly from the breast has many emotional advantages for the baby and mother, but you can do just as well by pumping your milk too! Spend lots of time with your baby and cuddle her whenever you can; she'll get all the comfort and warmth she needs. Pumping will not make you any less of a mother and your baby will love you with all her heart!! Happy Pumping!!

If you are confused where to buy breast pump and accessories, you can check put Flipkart, they have almost all the accessories and different types of breast pumps.

Swati Basu is a Computer Engineer and Mom to a one year old angel.

Lots of Love,

How to Use a Breast Pump and Breast Milk Storage Guidelines

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