How to Properly Pump Breast Milk
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that a woman breastfeeds an infant exclusively through the first year of life and for as long as both mother and infant are comfortable doing so. The World Health Organization has a slightly different standard and recommends a child be breastfed for the first two years of life.
For a woman, whether or not to breastfeed an infant is a personal choice which should be made after much thought and consideration. Besides being convenient and less expensive than formula feeding, there are several health-related benefits that breastfeeding imparts to a developing infant. When a new mother makes the decision to breastfeed her child, there are proper ways in which to express and store milk in order to ensure the freshness and nutritional content remains stable.
How to Properly Pump Breast Milk
When a new mother desires to return to the workforce or needs to leave her infant for any given length of time, pumping breast milk becomes necessary. Learning how to properly pump and store breast milk is vital and requires some work and careful planning and it is a good idea to begin doing it within a week or two of the anticipated separation, in order to get the hang of it. The breasts can be pumped either after a feeding or about an hour before an anticipated breastfeeding session, whichever is most convenient for the mother.
The easiest way in which a woman can express breast milk is during a feeding when the let-down reflex has triggered milk flow into the ducts. When wanting to express breast milk, a woman should observe the following set of instructions in order to do it correctly:
- Wash hands using warm water and soap for a period of 30-seconds.
- Sterilize a glass or plastic container in which to collect breast milk.
- Gently begin massaging the breast using a down and outward motion toward the nipple
- If the breast does not “let-down” easily, then sometimes it helps to be near the baby or a woman can place a warm compress on the breast to stimulate the milk ducts to release.
- When using hand expression, gently roll the nipple between the thumb and forefingers. Do not slide or squeeze, but make a rolling motion and only do this on the areola.
- Repeat the process on the opposite breast and rotate the hand downward around the breast.
- Switching breasts every few minutes will help improve the results and allow the milk to roll down and collect in the ducts of the breast which is not being expressed.
- It is important to remember that expressing breast milk is based on the supply-and-demand principle; the more the breasts are pumped the more milk will be produced. Successful pumping requires a period of several weeks before a woman will notice a significant increase.
When desiring to use a manual or electric breast pump, the machine should come with a complete set of instructions. Prior to using a breast pump, it is important that a woman reviews the package insert and becomes knowledgeable about how it works before trying to use the equipment. With time and practice it is possible for a woman to become familiar with which method will work best for her situation.
How to Store Breast Milk
Storing breast milk is ideal for a working mother and will allow for more convenience and ease of feeding when a child is in daycare or with a caregiver. Breast milk can either be stored in specially manufactured storage bags or placed in glass bottles for freezing. In order to prevent leaking of breast milk it is important to remember that it expands when frozen, so the bag or container should never be overly filled. The following is a list of breast milk storage guidelines which should be closely followed in order to make sure the nutritional content is maintained:
- Breast milk can be stored at room temperature (up to 77°F/26°C) for up to 6-8 hours
- When stored in a cooler bag with ice packs breast milk will keep for up to 24 hours
- When placed in the refrigerator breast milk will keep for up to 5 days
- Within a freezer with separate doors, breast milk will stay fresh for a period of 3-6 months
- In a deep freezer that is barely opened, breast milk can be stored for a period of 6-12 months
When storing breast milk, it is important to label the container with the date and time expressed and to use the oldest milk first. When transporting milk it is important to keep it cold until just before use in order to avoid spoiling. Breast milk should always be thawed at room temperature in a container of warm water, and never put into a microwave because it can create dangerous hot spots and destroys vital minerals and enzymes.
Pros and Cons of Pumping and Storing Breast Milk
There are many pros and cons to consider when pumping and storing breast milk, including the following:
- Convenient and easy to do
- Less costly than formula feeding
- Greater schedule flexibility for a working mother
- Infant is still able to receive the antibodies and nutrients which are unique to breast milk
- Can build up a long-term supply of breast milk which can be stored for up to one year
- Can wean child earlier because of having a back-up supply of breast milk
- Storage can leach some of the vitamin C content contained in fresh breast milk
- Breast milk prevents certain allergies, is easy to digest and contains many different vitamins, minerals and nutrients which cannot be found in formula
- Others can feed the infant during the nighttime and give the new mother a break and a chance to rest
- Storing and pumping breast milk requires a great deal of time and personal commitment on the part of the mother
- Manufacturing breast milk requires much energy on the body of a woman and can cause feelings of fatigue and exhaustion
- Anxiety and frustration until a woman learns how to correctly pump and store breast milk
- Possible breast milk leakage
- Mastitis, plugged milk ducts and engorgement can occur when let-down does not occur easily
Despite the many pros and cons which surround breast feeding, it is still one of the healthiest things a woman can do for her infant. As was previously mentioned, nursing an infant requires patience and dedication on the part of a new mother and a woman should be emotionally, mentally and physically prepared for all that is entailed. However, with enough time and persistence it is possible for a woman to adjust to a pumping and storing schedule with relative ease and free herself up for obligations that will require her to spend typical feeding times away from her baby.
When making the decision to breast feed an infant, according to experts a woman is doing the best thing she can for her child. Research and medical science has long touted the many healthful benefits imparted from a mother to child during breast feeding, which makes it an ideal choice for bonding and building a close physical relationship between mother and child. When considering whether or not to breastfeed an infant, a woman should speak with her obstetrician and a lactation consultant in order to find out all the information needed in order to make an informed and well-thought decision which will best suit her and the needs of her growing infant.