For mothers around the world, the juggle between heading back to work and her baby takes over sooner than later. It means a break from the routine breastfeeding sessions, and instantly, a million worries surround her about breastfeeding, breast pumps or bottle feeding for her baby. Breast pumps are convenient and have made life easier for mothers around the world. The convenience of expressing breast milk and storing it for using later has only allowed mums to head back to work while still providing breastmilk to their babies. This article will answer many of the critical questions you might have about breast pumps.
When should mothers start expressing milk using a breast pump?
The best time to start pumping may differ across new mothers. Some moms start pumping soon after the baby is born, right in the birthing centre. Others may wait for a few weeks between the early days of nursing and pumping. Lactation experts advise new mothers to hold on for a while before introducing a bottle, until breastfeeding is well established. Within 4 t0 6 weeks is a good time that breastfeeding should become an established routine. By this time, mothers can start expressing breastmilk with a pump and alternate between breastfeeding and expressed milk.
If you plan to join work anytime soon, then the pumping and storing process must start two to three weeks beforehand. It will give you and your baby enough time to familiarise with the new routine.
How to begin pumping?
Things to keep in mind before using a breast pump will help provide the right amount of breast milk for your baby and keep the supply consistent.
- Relax your senses – Find a comfortable and quiet corner. Relax your senses as you get ready to pump your produce. Few deep breaths or a quick meditation can calm you too.
- Imagine that you are holding the baby close – When you feel you are holding the baby close to you, pumping process get easier. Think of them, look at their photo or video, imagine the cuddles you both enjoy during the nursing sessions or simply close your eyes and feel their smell.
- Let down is a good idea – To ensure that the milk is ready for a let-down, gently massage or warm-compress your breasts. Even leaning over and softly shaking the breasts will also get you ready to express.
- Make a good seal – Applying a little amount of lanolin on the nipple area helps the pump flange slide smoothly. You can also moisten the flange with water to ensure a tight seal.
- Get centred – Gently place the flange in the middle of the nipple before starting the breast pump.
- Adjust the suction levels gradually – Take it slow by starting at low suction and gradually increase it once the milk flow is strong and steady. Adjust the levels only to your level of comfort.
How to store expressed breastmilk?
Expressed breastmilk is the safest food for your baby in your absence and better than formula milk. Most breast pumps come with storage bottles designed to feed your little one. In other cases, regular feeding bottles can also be used to collect milk. Plastic bags specifically designed to store breast milk can be utilized. But these bags must not be filled to the brim and a quarter of space must be left empty as they expand on freezing.
Depending on how soon you use it, you can store it either in room temperature, refrigerate it or freeze it. Pumped out milk can stay fresh up to four hours at room temperature as long as it is kept away from sun and heat. If expressed in clean and neat conditions, expressed milk stays fresh in the refrigerator for at least four days and in the freezer for twelve days. Easy thawing will require freezing milk in small quantities.
It is a good idea to date mark these bags or containers such that oldest milk packs are used first. That way you can track and manage the usage of your stored milk.
Benefits of pumping
Using a breast pump to store breast milk has several benefits. Right from relieving from engorgement and boosting milk supply to meet the growing needs of the baby, breast pumps also come in handy when new mothers are planning to return to work since stored milk will take care of your baby’s feedings.
Whatever the reasons, using breast pumps for expressing milk has key benefits.
- You don’t have to be around to feed your little one when she is hungry. Your partner, family members or caregiver can still feed the baby.
- You can step out for quick meetings or a business trip and still make sure that your baby is fed properly.
- Pumping increases your milk supply and perfectly takes care of your baby’s required nourishment as they grow.
- If you or your baby has any medical condition that prevents breastfeeding, expressed milk feeding is a great help.
Side effects of pumping breastmilk
Breast pumps have encouraged mothers to get back to their normal routine earlier than usual. They are convenient and safe to use. However, experts believe that there are certain flip sides to using pumped milk for babies that new mothers should know about.
- Freezing it takes away a lot of nutrient value from the milk.
- Continuous pumping may also lead to the loss of milk production in some mothers.
- Using breast pumps can cause nipple and breast tissue damage over a period of time.
- When mothers pump too much to stock higher supply for later, hormones are released in the body that makes the breasts swell and fill in with too much milk. Engorged breasts can get painful if milk is not released at once.
Although demanding and time-consuming, using a breast pump can be a rewarding experience for the mother and her baby. There may times when fatigue and stress sets in and you may skip pumping. Depending on the situation, it is best left to your judgement to alternate between using a pump and nursing. Irrespective of what you choose to do, eating healthy, ample rest, adequate sleep, regular exercise and taking care will lead to a joyous relationship between the mother and child.