There are a variety of reasons a mum needs to express breast milk for their baby, whether doing it occasionally to have a night out, more frequently to go back to work, or as a total alternative to breast feeding. There are a number of ways you can prepare to make the breast pumping experience an easier one. Here are our 10 tips for success.
1) Get the right kit
There are many different breast pumps out there so how to know which is the right one? Ideally pick one that has a variety of different flanges (the plastic bit that sits on your boob) so that you have one that has a good fit. An electric breast pump is a must for regular pumping but a manual one can be handy for emergencies. If you think you might need to express breast milk on the go, the Elvie breast pump is expensive but a brilliant piece of kit designed to sit in your bra and do the work while you do whatever you need to do.
2) Build up a stock of milk
If you know you are going back to work, or planning some time away from your baby, it can be a good idea to build up a store beforehand. Breast milk can be frozen for up to 6 months but can be stored in the fridge for 8 days. An easy way to collect some extra milk is to start by pumping on one side while your little one feeds on the other. You may find that they feed a little more frequently at first but your supply will quickly catch up with demand.
3) Look at your baby to help your let down
The way the body works is quite amazing, but if you are expressing breast milk when you aren’t with your baby, try looking at photos or watching videos of them to help stimulate the let down reflex and collect more milk.
4) Create a pumping routine as you might a breastfeeding routine
If possible have somewhere quiet you can comfortably sit and relax and focus on expressing. Not always the easiest if you are trying to combine expressing breast milk with running around after a toddler! But if you can time it around their bedtime or naps, hopefully you will manage to pump without much distraction!
5) Double up the effort
If time is tight, you are exclusively pumping, or if you need make sure you have more milk stocked up, invest in a double electric breast pump for extra efficiency with each pumping session.
6) Mix it up - pumping
If using an electric pump, switch between pumping phases to aid flow. I would often find that when the milk flow had started to slow, going back to the start where the faster, suckling phase was simulated, would trigger another let down of additional milk.
7) Mix it up – freezing
Freeze breastmilk in mixed size portions to avoid wastage. If you know your little one usually drinks 6oz, make sure you have some 2oz and 4oz portions to hand for hungrier days. Smaller portions are also great when mixing into foods during weaning without wasting milk unnecessarily.
8) Create a pumping bra from a nursing bra
If you have a more traditional breast pump, being hands free can be a lifesaver. Did you know that our Nursing Sports Bras can be adapted to hold your breast pump too?
9) Prepare for emergencies
Always keep a spare top in your bag if you are pumping when out and about – because you definitely don’t want to be crying over spilled milk…
10) Feed on demand when/if you can
If you are expressing breast milk so that you can be away on a more regular basis, such as to go back to work, breastfeed your baby as much as you can when you are together. The more you feed the more milk you will produce when you pump, which will hopefully help to keep your milk flowing plentifully for as long as you want it to.