Using a breast pump
A breast pump helps you remove breast milk from your breasts. You can use the milk at a later time to feed your baby. Breast pumps can help you in lots of ways:
- If you go back to work or school, you still can feed your baby breast milk.
- Your partner or other caregiver can feed the baby breast milk so you can take a break.
- Pumping helps keep your breast milk from building up in your breasts. This helps prevent discomfort and infection.
Breast milk that you pump from your breasts is called expressed milk.
No. But if you’re going back to work or school, or if there are times you’ll be away from your baby, you probably need a breast pump. You may not know how often you’ll need to pump, so you may want to wait to get one after your baby is born.
All pumps have a part that covers your breast and a container that collects the milk. If you’re not sure which pump is best for you, ask your lactation consultant. This is a person who has special training to help women breastfeed. Check with your health insurance company to see if it helps pay for a pump.There are two kinds of breast pumps:
1. Manual pump— This is a pump that you work by hand. You can use a manual pump anywhere because it doesn’t need electricity. This kind of pump is good if you don’t need to pump very often or if you don’t need a lot of milk at one time.
2. Electric pump— This pump uses a motor to pump your breasts. You can use a single pump that works on one breast at a time. You also can use a double pump that works on both breasts at the same time. Women who go back to work often like double pumps because they’re faster than single pumps. You can buy your own electric pump or you can rent a pump from a baby store, hospital or lactation consultant.
In the first few weeks after your baby’s birth, it’s best to just breastfeed your baby unless you’re making more milk than he is taking. Start pumping at least 2 weeks before you have to go back to work or school. Good times to pump are:
- About an hour after your baby is finished eating
- Early in the morning or late in the evening
- When your baby sleeps longer at a certain time of day
- When your baby only breastfeeds from one breast, pump the breast he doesn’t eat from. Next time, start your baby on the breast that feels fuller.
You need a private place at work or school to pump your breast milk. You want to pump a few times each day. Employers with more than 50 employees are required by law to give you time and space (that is not a bathroom) for pumping when you go back to work. Talk to your boss or teachers so they know what you need.
Your child care provider should support you and your baby by feeding him your pumped breast milk. If you work or go to school near where your baby is, you may be able to stop by and breastfeed your baby during the day.
Yes. You need a few supplies to keep breast milk fresh and safe for your baby after pumping:
- Bottles or bags — These are made just to store pumped breast milk. The bags are plastic, and the bottles are plastic or glass. You can buy them at most grocery stores, drug stores or baby stores.
- Cooler — You may need a small cooler to keep your pumped milk cold until you get it home. This may be really important if you don’t have a refrigerator at your work or school. Your pump may come with a cooler.
After you pump, put your pumped breast milk in bottles or bags and store them in the refrigerator or freezer. Put just the amount of milk your baby needs for each feeding in each bottle or bag. Breast milk doesn’t last forever, so write the date on the bottle or bag before you store it.
Use these guidelines for storing breast milk.
To thaw frozen milk, put the bottle or bag in the refrigerator or swirl it in a bowl of warm water. Make sure the bottle or bag is sealed so that water doesn’t get into the milk. Pour the amount of thawed milk you need for your baby into a bottle for feeding. Once the milk is thawed, use it within 24 hours.
To warm thawed or refrigerated milk, put the bottle or bag under running hot water or in a bowl of warm water. Never heat breast milk in the microwave. It kills nutrients in the milk. Also, the milk can heat unevenly and create hot spots that could burn your baby’s mouth.
Before you give the milk to your baby, shake the bottle or bag. Put a drop or two of milk on the back of your hand to test the temperature. If it’s too hot, let it cool.
Last reviewed February 2012
See also: Breastfeeding and medications, prescription drugs, Breastfeeding help, Breastfeeding your baby in the NICU, How to breastfeed, Breastfeeding: What dad can do, Keeping breastfeeding safe, A visit with a breastfeeding support group
Most common questions
How much vitamin D should my baby get?
Vitamin D is important to help avoid a bone-weakening disease called rickets. All babies should receive 400 IU of vitamin D per day, starting in the first few days of life. This includes breastfed babies and babies who drink less than 1L of infant formula per day.
Our skin makes vitamin D when it gets sunlight. But too much sunlight can be harmful, too. In fact, babies 6 months and older and young kids should stay away from direct sunlight and wear sunscreen at all times when out in the sun. However, sunscreen stops the skin from making vitamin D. The best way to get enough vitamin D is by giving your baby liquid multivitamin drops with vitamin D. They can be found in many pharmacies, and you won't need a prescription for it. Just be sure you've filled the dropper to no more than 400 international units (IU).
How often should I nurse my baby?
All babies are different and have different feeding patterns. In general, breastfed newborns need to eat 8 to 12 times in 24 hours (about once every 2 to 3 hours), for about 30 minutes each time. Breast milk is easily digested so it may be difficult to time when you should nurse your baby.
Newborns may need to feed more frequently than older babies. They may need to be fed on demand. As your milk supply is established and the baby grows, the baby's feeding patterns may change and she may go longer between feedings. Remember, breastfeeding is a natural skill, but it’s also a learned skilled. Be patient and give yourself (and your baby) time to master this new ability.
What solids foods should I start my baby on?
Begin with a single-grain iron-fortified cereal such as rice, barley or oatmeal. Mix it with breast milk or infant formula. Start with a small amount once a day. It's hard to tell how much your baby will eat. At first, most of her food will probably end on her bib or face. Be patient and help your baby learn this new skill. It's important that meal time is a pleasant time. This will build the foundation of healthy eating habits. If your baby cries, shows no interest in feeding or turns her head away from the spoon, stop feeding her. She is trying to tell you that she's full or she doesn’t want anymore. You should never force her to eat more than what she wants.
When should I give my baby solid foods?
Breast milk is the best food for most babies. It's best to give only breast milk for the first 6 months of life. Some babies might be ready to start solid foods between 4 to 6 months of age. When your baby is between 4 to 6 months, she may begin to show signs that she's ready to try some solid foods alongside her breast milk or formula. Watch for her developmental cues (signs) and she'll let you know when she's ready. Some signs that show your baby might be ready to start solid foods are:
- She can sit with support.
- She shows a good head neck control when seated.
- She shows a desire for food by opening her mouth, drooling and leaning forward.
- She begins to chew and brings her hands to her mouth.
- She begins to handle objects with the palm of her hand.
- She swallows pureed food and the extrusion reflex starts to go away (tongue-thrust reflex).