Many breastfeeding mothers want to pump their milk as well as feed from the breast.
There can be a variety of reasons for doing this.
However, it’s important to stress that if breastfeeding is going well, pumping is not necessary.
Many breastfeeding ladies choose to feed their baby solely at the breast, throughout their whole breastfeeding journey, and never pump their milk.
However, some women want the flexibility to be able to separate from their baby for a short time but still provide that breast milk.
There are circumstances that women are encouraged to pump their milk, which actually, it isn’t necessary and arises due to a lack of lactation education, even within the medical profession.
For example, some women are told they need to pump their milk (and not feed at the breast) if they need to have a general or local anesthetic or some specific medical procedure.
Others have been prescribed medications, or had a particular illness and told that breastfeeding is not possible.
Be well informed in these types of scenarios, learn as much as you can to become well informed and don’t take the initial advice as gospel.
Too many women have been distressed when told to stop breastfeeding, only to find that it was not even necessary, but there will, of course, be some situations where temporary pumping to keep up supply would be necessary.
If you need some occasional time away from your baby, you may be able to hand express your breast milk without using a breast pump.
If you do require a breast pump, the essential key point is to choose one that will be most appropriate for you in your particular circumstance.
I understand that when you are making these decisions about pumping, it can be quite confusing because there are so many different types of pumps. For example,
if you don’t want to hand express, and you will only be away from your baby very occasionally, you may consider using a hand pump.
These pumps are not very expensive, and if you’ve got an abundant amount of milk, then they can be beneficial.
Some women can get a good yield of milk with this type of pump, but the majority of women who use them say that it can take quite a bit of time even to pump small amounts.
They report that their hands get tired with the pumping action, and sometimes the yield can be quite low.
With this type of pump, you manually pump the handle until the milk flows into an attached container.
There are now some ingenious all-in-one pumps, which can be used on one breast while the baby is feeding on the other and not too costly.
Many women find them comfortable, discreet, and quiet to use, and with no need to spend lots of time assembling and cleaning lots of pump pieces, this type of pump can be a positive asset for mums who want to build up a small stash of milk.
You might want to consider using a small electric pump which can be batteries or mains generated.
These are still reasonably small pumps, but portable, although sometimes a little noisy, but great for occasional use.
If you need to pump your milk more regularly, then a pump in the range of £100 to £150 would be more suitable, and they usually operate quieter and faster.
Some provide an option to pump both breasts at the same time and can control the suction level, too, making pumping your milk a more comfortable experience.
Whichever pump you choose, it’s imperative to note that most of them are classed as single user only pumps, because there is always a risk of contamination.
Single user only pumps potentially expose the pump motor to the breast milk, and so could pose a risk if such a pump was shared.
With that in mind, it becomes impossible to sterilize all parts of the pump entirely, including the motor. For this reason, such pumps should not be shared or borrowed.
Some pumps are considered to be closed system pumps and therefore, safer in this respect, but even then, they are not recommended as multi-user pumps.
However, a hospital-grade double pump is considered to be a multi-user pump.
These are the pumps that many breastfeeding women tend to rent if their baby is born prematurely, or not latching, or need to build up their milk supply more efficiently and faster.
These pumps are an excellent tool to generate milk supply, with the real advantage that the pumping time only needs to be around 10-15 minutes at each session.
The extra time it gives you allows for more time to spend with your baby doing skin to skin and working on attaching the baby at the breast.
If you have experimented with smaller pumps and found them to be laborious, do consider a hospital-grade double pump, as they work in a very different way, with the suck-release cycle being very different to the continuous suction of smaller pumps.
Finally, it’s crucial that whichever pump you choose, it should not cause you any discomfort.
Too many breastfeeding mums sustain trauma to the nipple or areola area because of the pump that they’ve used, and that shouldn’t be the case.
When the pump is functioning, your nipple should not be touching the sides of the funnel – your nipple should be free to move.
The diameter and the length of your nipple change during pumping, and there should be ample room, so ensure that the fit is a good one, and the breast shield that attaches to you is comfortable.
It’s important to note that whatever type of pump you’re using, it can take a little bit of time to get used to using it effectively.
Review dates, references & further resources
Version 1.1 published in March 2019. Next review date: Jan 2022
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