Pumping Breast Milk: The Hows, The Whats & Everything Else
Have you gone stir crazy yet? No? Maybe? A little? Wondering why I’m asking you that?
Well, I’m assuming you’ve come by this article because you’re finally ready to leave the house for some ‘me time’. You’ve been holed up in the house for a month now and you’re ready to try leaving baby even if it’s just for an hour or two to recharge. Right? Or maybe you want to jump on the building a supply bank train so you’re looking for some info. Whatever the case, you’ve come to the right place because just like you, I had to figure this shit out. In some ways, I am still figuring it out but I have a little information that can help you out if you’re completely in the dark.
First things first is if you’re pumping to store for baby it’s probably best to wait a month. My doc told me that that’s when the milk matures and is good to store. However, if you have crazy oversupply in the first few weeks like I did, you can express to ease engorgement. Personally, I didn’t introduce baby to the bottle until a after a month so I dumped those first batches of milk I expressed to ease the discomfort but I think this is something you can make the call on for yourself. Some practitioners warn about nipple confusion i.e. the baby will end up preferring bottle over nipple if you introduce bottle too early but like with all things about your baby, you know best so make the call!
What I am using
I use a single side electric pump (Medela). This was a hand me down from a good friend that has served me pretty well. Depending on your budget (and I imagine arm strength and patience) you could opt for a manual pump. Those tend to be a lot cheaper. Wait until your baby is here to get the pump though. As I said in this article, you don’t want to end up buying something you’ll never use.
How to start
When you begin, it will be foreign and frustrating so don’t beat yourself up if you only get a few drops out. Your boob is built to respond to your baby so an electric gadget takes some getting used to. My advice? Pump for a few minutes each side the first few times just to see how it feels. Then work up to longer periods.
Where to do it
I have a ‘pump station’. It’s nothing fancy. It’s just the desk for the little home office I’ve set up where the pump is situated (when I’m not carrying it around). For every session, I settle down with the same cup of uji or soup, turn on my laptop and get pumping. Sometimes I work, sometimes I watch an episode of something. It helps to keep your eye off the bottle because a watched milk bottle never fills! True story! So set up a nice space so that your body begins to know that we’re about to get down to business.
When to do it
You’ve probably heard by now that your milk is a supply and demand game. The more you work those boobs either by feeding or expressing, the more you make. Our bodies are amazing that way. The best way to pump for storing if you’re building up a bank for before you head back to work or just because you need it, is to do it consistently so your boobs know what’s up. My schedule looks like this. Please note though that this isn’t rigid – sometimes it’s -/+ 30 or so minutes. Other times (especially during growth spurts) baby is feeding a lot during the day.
But, I’m not a hard ass so I don’t always get every pumping session in especially on busy days when I have to leave the house. When I’m home though, I try as much as possible. With the exception of the morning session (which I sometimes do before feeding), I do the pumping sessions an hour after feeds. My milk is the most in the morning and one boob is almost always full because baby only feeds once at night. So I express that before she’s up. For the rest of the day, I do the pump after her feeds. Each pumping sessions is about 30 mins – 15 min on each side.
How to store
If I know the milk will be used the same day or the next, I simply leave it in the fridge in the bottle she will use to drink or in the plastic tins I bought for storing milk. Otherwise, I put it in breast milk storage bags in the fridge. These are pricey (Nana is 1500 -/+ for 50 bags) but great for where freezer space is limited. If you have space, you could use the plastic containers (Avent has a these). I use both options just because I’m a girl that likes options.
On the go, I have a little cooler box that has a block of ice. Easy for me because I have a car. If you don’t, get those lunch bags that have that foil/aluminium looking thing inside. Put a block of ice in a plastic bag so it doesn’t leak and you’re good to go.
Time to feed
Whatever you do, don’t put breast milk in the microwave. It kills every bit of goodness in it. Just put the bag or container of frozen milk in a bowl with hot water to thaw (which happens pretty fast) and then in the bottle you will feed with and in another bowl of hot water if it’s still not warm.
There you have it! I hope this helps a tiny bit when you start expressing. If you have any questions, drop me a line below! And if I don’t have an answer, we’ll find someone who does. 🙂