Ask the experts: Pumping

By Published On: August 6th, 2012

Happy breastfeeding month! To kick it off, we’ve asked Pamela […]

Happy breastfeeding month! To kick it off, we’ve asked Pamela K. Murphy, PhD, APRN-BC, CNM, IBCLC, Clinical Development Manager for Ameda Breastfeeding Products and working mom to three breastfed children to answer a few important questions about pumping. It’s a topic that’s not always discussed but can lead to a great deal of stress for breastfeeding moms. Listen to Murphy’s advice for finding and conquering the pump.

Moms pump for all sorts of reasons—ranging from difficulty with breastfeeding to returning to work. Some important tips to remember include frequent, regular breast stimulation in order to establish or keep up your milk supply. The idea is to drain your breasts of milk so that your body makes more.
1. How does the process of pumping work?
A breast pump can be used if your baby is not breastfeeding well, is born too early to breastfeed or if you are separated from your infant. You can set the vacuum and cycling speed on the breast pump to mimic the baby’s sucking, stimulate and elicit milk flow.
2. What should a mom look for in a good breast pump?
Good breast pumps are those that are able to provide adequate stimulation to help drain your breasts of breast milk. Look for a pump that has at least a one year warranty on the motor, breast flange options as one size does not fit all nipples, adjustable suction and speed to elicit multiple let-downs (or milk flow), power options (electricity and battery) and easy cleaning instructions.
If you are using a personal breast pump, obtain a brand new pump as these are not meant to be shared. Some types of personal use pumps do not have a barrier between the breast milk and the tubing so if microorganisms such as viruses and bacteria are present, they could get into your breast pump and into any future milk that is pumped. Purchase the best pump you can afford.
If you are encouraged to use a hospital grade breast pump, these are authorized by the FDA to be multi-user pumps and can be rented through a breast pump rental station at your local hospital, baby boutique or online.
3. What is the difference between manual and electric?
Manual breast pumps do not use electricity, rather you use your hands to compress the handle to create a vacuum. You set the pace and can use either slow or fast speeds to elicit milk flow. They are typically small and easily portable. If you are occasionally away from your baby for a feeding here and there, this is the pump for you.
Electric pumps require either electricity or batteries to run. Moms typically find they can drain their breasts faster with electric pumps especially if you use a double electric pump that pumps both breasts at the same time. If you are a mom who will be missing at least one breastfeeding session daily, you will want to invest in an electric breast pump. This is the pump for a mom with a preterm infant or who will be returning to work.
4. When should a new mom begin pumping?
If you plan to return to work, begin pumping once a day or every other day when your baby is 3-4 weeks old. Then you can begin to store your milk so you have a small supply built up for when you return to work. Keep in mind that you want to be consistent with how many times a day your breasts are stimulated a day so that you don’t end up with over or under-supply.
If you have a preterm or hospitalized infant who is unable to breastfeed yet, start pumping within 1-6 hours of birth to stimulate your breasts to establish a good milk supply. Pump regularly after this, approximately every 3 hours until you are able to start substituting breastfeeding for some pumping sessions.
5. What are the benefits of pumping?
If you need to be apart from your baby and cannot breastfeed, then pumping is the next best thing. Pumping allows you to provide your breast milk and it’s benefits when you cannot be together.
6. What should a mom do if she isn’t yielding enough milk at her pumping sessions?
Not all moms will yield the same amount of milk at a pumping session. If your baby is growing and is satisfied with the amount of breast milk you pump at each pumping session, you are likely making enough. If not, consult with a health care provider such as a lactation consultant who can help you increase your supply. Some things she may suggest include, increasing the frequency of pumping /breastfeeding sessions, ensuring you are draining your breasts well during pumping, using the correct flange size, skin to skin time with your baby, drinking enough fluids, getting enough sleep, etc.
Also, while breast pumps are helpful to express breast milk, there is nothing like your baby who has cheeks, a tongue and jaws that help stimulate and drain your breasts. You can help drain your breasts better by massaging your breasts and applying heat before and during pumping and doing a few minutes of hand expression after pumping.
7. What’s the best way to store pumped milk?
Use a storage container that is meant for breast milk, milk freezer bags, glass or hard plastic containers. Store in small portions as you can always warm up more. Check out Ameda’s site for the current milk storage timeline.
8. Would you like to add anything else about pumping?
Breastfeed your baby whenever you can but if you miss a feeding, then make sure to pump. A good rule of thumb is to pump every 3 hours when you are away from your baby. Heat and massage before and during pumping can shorten the time it takes to drain your breasts. Hand expression for a few minutes after pumping with a breast pump can help you drain your breasts more completely. Many moms find that using a hands-free bra can help you free up your hands for massaging or even reading a book while pumping. While pumping, relax and look at a picture of your baby. This can help with milk flow.For more information on pumping, check out