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A Beginner’s Guide to Breast Pumping

As a new mom, there’s a lot of information that you’ll want to learn—some of which revolves around breast pumping. Since you already have enough on your plate, you shouldn’t have to spend hours searching different sites to get a full understanding on the process of breast pumping and how to use your breast pump. To give you a little help, we’ve put together a beginner’s guide to breast pumping that covers everything you need to know about what you should and shouldn’t do on your journey to breast pumping.

Is Breast Pumping Right for You?

Many new moms understand the benefits of breastfeeding and therefore, start their pregnancy with the intention of exclusive breastfeeding. However, if you plan to be apart from your baby at all during the first six months to one year, you’ll also need to supplement your nursing with breast pumping.

Breast pumping allows working moms to provide optimal nutrition while they’re away and gives parents an opportunity for date-night or a relaxing evening to themselves. Luckily, your insurance is required to cover a breast pump free of charge so there’s no reason not to browse your options. In addition to providing breast milk to your baby when you’re away, breast pumping has a number of different benefits:

  • Relief of engorgement
  • Prevention of mastitis
  • Provides your partner with the opportunity to feed and bond with your baby
  • Builds a stronger milk supply
  • Allows you to return to work without sacrificing your child’s nutrition
  • Can help plan for emergencies
  • They’re convenient

Breastfeeding vs. Breast Pumping

There is plenty of research out there depicting the benefits of breastfeeding for both baby and mom, but people assume these benefits dissipate when you start breast pumping. That’s not true. The benefits of breastfeeding also apply to breast pumping and is a great way to ensure that you’re doing everything you can to prepare your baby for a healthy development.

Benefits of Breast Milk for Baby

The components of breast milk are packed with nutrition that supports a developing baby. Breast milk includes all of the essential proteins, fats, vitamins, minerals, and antibodies your baby needs to grow and fight off disease. Breast milk is much easier on a baby’s digestive tract and can help decrease the likelihood of a child developing a number of illnesses and conditions later on.

Benefits of Breast Pumping for Mom

The act of breastfeeding and breast pumping releases a hormone called oxytocin, which can help your body return to normal post-delivery. Breast pumping is also a great way to help you lose excess baby weight and saves you thousands of dollars of the years.

How Does Breast Pumping Work?

To make sure that you’re comfortable with the process of breast pumping, it’s important to first look at how the different pumps work. While each pump will be a little different, they’re all fairly easy to use. Breast pumping works by mirroring the natural suckling pattern of a nursing baby. This isn’t a constant pattern and a nursing baby will usually alternate from short, fast motions to slow, more drawn out ones. These two phases are known as the let down phase and expression phase.

Let Down Phase

During the let down phase, your breast pump will mimic the vigorous sucking actions of a baby nursing. This helps to activate the nerves in your breasts, which carry signals up to your brain to release oxytocin. When the oxytocin is released and reaches your ducts, it helps to improve the flow of milk from your ducts into the pump or nursing baby’s mouth. 

Expression Phase

The expression phase is when your baby starts to slow down, which is automatically programmed on many electric breast pumps. This is when your baby is actually drinking milk and taking the time to swallow it—when your milk is flowing more freely. With breast pumping, the same idea is applied but the milk is expressed into a container attached to your pump to be saved and used later.

When using a breast pump, you’ll need to make sure that you have the proper supplies for a comfortable pumping experience. One of the most important things that you need to have are flanges. Flanges, also known as breast shields, help create a seal that mimics a latching feeling so that pumping is more efficient. When you have the wrong size flanges, you’ll likely have difficulty expelling milk and may experience a mild to severe degree of pain during pumping.

What to do About Pain During Pumping

If you experience pain after 10 to 15 seconds of breast pumping, stop. Pain is not normal and should not be an ongoing process. The initial pain, or as we’d say discomfort, is similar to what you feel during breast feeding and is merely due to the stretch of your nipple. However, if pain persists or is too severe, you need to make some changes.

The first change is checking your flange size. An improper flange size is one of the main causes of pain or discomfort during breast pumping. Try changing the position of the flange so that your nipple is centered, and you avoid any pinching.

If that doesn’t help, you might need to play around with the settings on your breast pump. The pre-programed settings aren’t right for everyone and too much speed or suction can cause discomfort. Make some changes to the speed and suction during your next breast pumping sessions until you find something that works for you. It should feel similar to when you breastfeed your baby. It’s also important to take your time when choosing a breast pump. Find something that is going to work best for you, not something that worked well for your friend or relative. Do some research before ordering your breast pump, then give yourself enough time to become familiar with it.

Tips for Setting Up Your New Breast Pump

When you receive your new breast pump, make sure you take some time to set it up prior to your first use. Getting familiar with your pump will allow your pumping sessions to occur more effortlessly and in less time. To make sure you’re getting the most out of your breast pump, go through these steps to set it up before your due date.

  1. Read the instruction manual carefully. Each breast pump is different and requires different set up and care.
  2. Disinfect all of the parts of your breast pump prior to using it. You want to make sure everything is clean and sterilized to avoid contamination of your breast milk.
  3. Be patient while you’re learning how all of the parts work together; you’ll get the hang of it eventually. Just start early so that you know how to work it before the baby comes.
  4. Look into extra pumping accessories just in case something doesn’t fit, or you want to add a little bit of comfort to your sessions.

Breast Pumping 101: When and How Much?

The main thing that expecting moms want to know is when they should start pumping and how much they should pump. The answer to that question depends on your body, your baby, and your circumstances.

You can start pumping right away to help improve your milk supply, but if your baby doesn’t have any problems with latching you can stick to strictly nursing for the first few weeks.

Many new moms will start pumping shortly after delivery to help build up a milk supply. While it doesn’t technically matter when you pump throughout the day, women tend to expel the most milk in the mornings. Once you’ve created a pumping and/or nursing schedule, the most important thing to do is stick to that schedule for continuity and a strong milk supply.

To get started, sit in a relaxed environment. Find a comfortable position and prep the breasts with a warm compress to help enhance let down. Be patient for your milk to begin flowing and pump until your breasts are empty. When you’re done, make sure that you thoroughly clean and sanitize your breast pump as directed and properly store your milk for use later on.

If you want to build a bigger milk supply, you’ll likely need to pump more often. It will take some time to better understand your needs, but once you do, you’ll fall into a rhythm.

When you’re pumping, make sure that you empty both breasts to avoid engorgement and any discomfort. This usually takes about 25-30 minutes but can vary from woman to woman. Your breasts will expel more milk as your baby gets older so don’t overstress about the process. Milk ducts work on a supply and demand cycle, so it’s normal to only expel small amounts in the beginning.

Getting a Breast Pump Through Insurance

Now that you have a better understanding on the basics of breast pumping, it’s time to start looking for a pump. Make sure that you take your time during the process and remember that The Affordable Care Act requires your insurance provider to cover breast pumps, breastfeeding support, and any other supplies that you may need. Byram Healthcare is here to help you find the perfect breast pump through your insurance coverage. Start by browsing our selection and then work with one of our representatives to begin the process of filing a claim and getting your breast pump free of cost.