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breast pump questions answered

In preparation for your arrival you may have already thought about investing in a breast pump to help express breast milk, maybe it's something you haven't even considered yet. There is a lot to be said about expressing breast milk and plenty of breast pumps on the market for you to choose from.

To help make the process and the decision a little bit easier for you, here's a little guide to help...

mum breastfeeding her baby

why would i need a breast pump?


To get the best out of your breasts, it is good to establish a breastfeeding routine. A regular routine will allow your little one to have a good feed and will help regulate your milk production. Also, if you have chosen to breastfeed it is always better to be able to give your baby expressed breast milk rather than formula.

The beauty of expressed breast milk is that it can get your partner involved in the feeding your little one and it can be given to baby when you are not there – perfect for that first evening out or when you have gone back to work.

Expressing milk can relieve uncomfortably full breasts, assisting in emptying the breast and encouraging milk flow.  It is always best to put baby to the breast first if your breasts are uncomfortably full, followed by the use of the pump if needed. If your breasts are very full and baby has difficulty latching on, some short use of a breast pump can soften the breast just enough to help with the latch.

If your baby is ill or premature, they may not be able to feed directly from the breast at first. Regular use of the pump at this time helps to stimulate the breasts and maintain your milk supply. Expressed milk can then be stored and given to baby when the time is right.

Building up a supply of expressed breast milk for storage in the fridge or freezer for later use. But always follow the recommended guidelines for the storage of breast milk. Again, best to wait until breastfeeding has been fully established before you attempt to build up a supply as you may overstimulate the breast and produce too much milk.

Care should be taken, however, not to introduce a bottle and teat too early when baby is exclusively breastfeeding as this can interfere with the establishment of breastfeeding and can cause nipple\teat confusion.

what is the best type of pump to use?


medela hospital grade breast pump

This really depends on your own situation and how often you intend to express. The following information may help you to make the right choice for you.

manual breast pumps


Manual pumps are lightweight, portable, low cost, and quiet. They are a good alternative to hand expressing. Generally, they are best for short-term use as they can be tiring to use for long periods.

electric breast pumps


These are more powerful and durable than manual pumps. Some are battery-operated and others need to be plugged into an electrical socket. They vary in what specification they offer, usually related to cost. Some have a double pumping action which is more suited to the mum feeding twins.

hospital-grade breast pumps


These pumps are large, more powerful machines. They are most suitable for mums who have to stay in hospital for longer than usual. They can be hired out for home use, usually on a monthly basis from the NHS and other companies and agencies.

hand expressing milk


All breastfeeding mums should be shown by their midwife how to hand-express. Some mums find this easier than using a pump, while others find it tricky to get the hang of. It’s down to individual preference but do ask your midwife to go through the technique with you after delivery. It’s simple and straightforward but you do need to be shown properly how to do it.

does expressing my milk hurt?


It shouldn’t be painful but may be a little uncomfortable until you get used to it. Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions on how to use your pump properly, and again, ask your midwife or health visitor for advice.

how should i store my expressed breast milk?


The current guidelines state that expressed breast milk can be stored in a sterile container for up to 5 days at the back of a domestic fridge (4 degrees or lower), or up to 2 weeks in the freezer compartment of the fridge. Breast milk can be stored in the freezer (-18 degrees or lower) for up to 6 months. Frozen milk should be defrosted in the fridge – not in the microwave, and used immediately, and not re-frozen.

do i need to sterilise my breast pump?


All breast pump parts that come into contact with your milk need to be thoroughly washed first in hot soapy water then sterilised before each use. The same applies to all feeding equipment: feeding bottles, teats, bottle covers etc.

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