As a new mother learning the ropes of motherhood, pumping breast milk can feel like a challenge you were not prepared for. In today’s blog, we will understand Breast Pumping and how to approach it the right way for happy mothers and healthy babies.
What is breast pumping?
Breast pumping is when you express breastmilk using a breast pump as opposed to a baby suckling and latching from the breasts. Some mothers choose to pump breast milk if they can’t be near their baby all the time for feeding on demand or if the baby has issues with latching.
Mothers also resort to pumping breast milk for the below reasons:
If they have an oversupply of milk and the baby is not emptying the breasts, mothers pump to get relief from engorged breasts.
For some women, pumping can also help build milk supply.
Mothers can resume work knowing that their baby will still get breast milk while they are away.
The father or other caregivers get the chance to take over feeding time using the pumped breastmilk and can use this as an opportunity to bond with the baby.
Pumped breastmilk can be used for night feeds giving new mothers uninterrupted sleep while other caregivers take over the night duty.
What are the benefits of breast pumping?
Breast Milk is the best form of nourishment for babies. It is a complete meal for babies for the first six months of their lives. In a situation where it is not possible for a mother to breastfeed her baby, breast pumping is the second best option.
Just like breastfeeding, breast pumping also releases the hormone oxytocin in the mother’s body. This helps her manage her postpartum emotions better and feel happy and relaxed. Breast pumping also promotes the body’s recovery and helps you return back to normal after childbirth. Regular breast pumping also helps in losing pregnancy weight.
Breast Milk is full of nutrients and contains fats, vitamins, minerals, and proteins that are necessary for your baby’s health. Breast Milk also contains antibodies that help boost the baby’s immunity. It is also gentle on the baby’s digestive system and babies who feed on breastmilk are less likely to experience colic. Expressed breast milk provides all these benefits for the baby. Hence, many mothers choose to pump breast milk in situations where breastfeeding is not possible.
How do breast pumps work?
Breast pumps from different manufacturers can be slightly different from each other. However, all good-quality breast pumps have one core common feature - their pumping function mimics a baby’s suckling to draw breastmilk.
When a baby suckles, she does not do so in a constant pattern. A breastfeeding session is typically made up of short, fast sucking and slow, long suckings. The breast pump also does the same by alternating the motions.
At the beginning of a breast pumping session, the pump stimulates the breasts through fast sucking motions. This activates the nerves in the breasts and releases oxytocin. Oxytocin signals breastmilk production and milk starts flowing out. This is known as the let-down phase.
After the let-down phase, the expression phase begins. In this phase, the pump draws milk in slower motions. However, this phase lasts longer. A container attached to the pump will start collecting the breast milk.
Most electric breast pumps come programmed to mimic a baby’s motions and function as described above. Breast pumps also come with flanges. The flanges attach to the breasts mirroring the latching of a baby. It acts as a shield and helps express milk easily with the help of a pump. Knowing how your breast pump works by reading the user manual carefully will help you use the pump in the right way.
How to make breast pumping more comfortable?
Breast pumping might not feel like a very enjoyable activity. However, it shouldn’t be painful, too. If you experience pain, you need to stop and examine the reason for the pain. If you experience pain even after the initial 10 to 15 seconds of pumping, you need to stop the pump and check the reason for the pain.
The most common reason for the pain is the wrong size flanges. They can make pumping painful. The other reason is if the flanges are not attached correctly. If you experience pain, check the flange size. If the size is okay, remove and re-attach the flange so that the nipple is centered. This makes pumping easier. If you still experience pain and discomfort, you can check with a lactation consultant who can help you navigate breast pumping.
Sometimes, the pain during breast pumping can be caused due to uncomfortable speed and suction levels. For this, you should check the settings of the pump and figure out which speed levels and suction levels work for you. Once you figure out the favorable settings for your breast pump, it is just a matter of attaching the flanges and letting the pump do its job. But whether you are pumping breastmilk at work or from the comfort of your home, a specially designed pumping bra can make things significantly easier for you.
The Skye Pump Bra from Lovemère is our first-ever pump bra that has been crafted to give you the most comfort during pumping. It has adjustable straps that support your breasts during pumping and help you attach the flanges perfectly. This gives you a complete hands-free pumping experience so you can multitask while expressing milk.
When can you start breast pumping?
You can start breast pumping as soon as you want after delivering. Some mothers prefer not to start pumping till such a time that they are able to breastfeed directly. Some mothers prefer to start earlier so that both the mum and the baby can get used to pumping and having expressed milk.
In short, it is completely up to you.
However, soon after delivering, you may expect to pump just a little colostrum (the first milk) at first.
Some mothers whose babies do not latch correctly might want to pump sooner and more often to build the milk supply. This is to ensure that their baby continues to get enough breastmilk. However, since every woman’s body is different, this can vary from mum to mum.
While you can pump any time during the day, usually early mornings are when you would get the most milk supply. You can stick to a pumping schedule that works best for you and your other priorities. A set pumping schedule will help you to maintain supply for a longer time.
A few tips for breast pumping
Below are a few tips for breast pumping that will help you pump comfortably.
Do your research before buying a breast pump that works for you. Since there are many electric pumps available in the market, choose the one that suits your needs after research.
Read the user manual carefully to understand how the pump works. Each pump is different. Take your time to understand how it needs to be set up.
Disinfect and sterilise the parts of the breast pump before you use it. The instruction manual will tell you how to do this in the correct way. Continue to clean and sterilise the parts between pumping sessions, too.
Wearing a good pumping bracan make pumping sessions more comfortable. It will also help you pump on the go.
Find a comfortable place for yourself for pumping. Thinking about your baby or looking at a picture of your baby can further promote the release of oxytocin and help improve your milk supply.
When you are pumping, ensure that you empty both breasts. It usually takes about 20-30 minutes to empty one breast. However, this again can vary for different women.
Even as we find more support for breastfeeding from all corners, breast pumping often gets sidelined. Recognising the need for mothers to have more flexibility to take care of their other priorities such as work, we need to normalise breast pumping. Just as a mother can nurse her baby anywhere, breast pumping should also be normalised to the extent that mothers can pump anywhere they like (nursing cover helps!) They are after all just trying to make food for their babies!
Remember that pumping becomes easier once you get used to it. Hang in there and know that you are doing your best.
p.s. Make yourself comfortable with our full range of nursing bras too, if you are latching at the same time. Have a wonderful postpartum experience with us.
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