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How do I express milk with a breast pump?

Why express? Expressing and storing your breast milk is a great way for you to continue to feed your child when you return to work or when you simply just need me time. Here are some tips for pumping below.

Preparing to pump:

  • Read the pump instruction manual carefully before using it for the first time.
  • Make sure pump parts are properly cleaned before use and assembly.
  • Wash hands before handling any of the breast pump parts, the breasts or expressed breast milk.
  • Make yourself comfortable before pumping. Sit with your shoulders relaxed and back supported. Have everything you need, including something to drink, within arm's reach.
  • Relax to help your milk "let-down." Many women find that their milk lets down when they think about their baby or look at a picture of their baby while pumping.
  • Try breast massage or warm compresses on the breasts before pumping. Some women gently stimulate the nipple before using the pump.
  • Centre the breast shieldover the nipple so the nipple can move in and out without rubbing against the sides. Moisten the breast before placing the shield on the breast to create a "seal."
  • If using an electric pump, always begin pumping with the suction regulator on minimum.
  • Double pumping (pumping both breasts at the same time with a double electric breast pump) is effective for mothers who have limited time available for pumping breaks. This option can cut pumping time in half and milk production is stimulated more effectively by increasing prolactin levels.

Pumping breast milk:

  • See your pump instruction manual for the recommended pumping time.
  • If using a single pump, switch breasts when the milk flow decreases (or about every five minutes).
  • Good times to express milk are upon awakening in the morning or when the baby has not completely emptied the breasts. If the baby is sleeping for long periods (4-6 hours) try pumping after baby has been asleep for 1-2 hours.
  • Remember that pumping and/or hand expression is a learned skill. Effectiveness improves with practice. The amount of milk pumped depends on many things: how long it has been since baby nursed, how practiced the mother is at pumping, how comfortable she is in her pumping setting, the time of day, how established is her milk supply, and her level of stress.
  • Remember that breastmilk can vary in colour, consistency and smell depending upon the time of day the milk was expressed and the age of the baby at the time of pumping.
  • Remember that a nursing baby will always be more effective at emptying the breast than a pump. If the amount pumped in the beginning is small, that does not necessarily reflect your milk supply.
  • Most nursing mothers these days use a pumping bustier, which really makes life simple; you can play with your baby or use the computer. They make pumping seem much less of a chore.

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