Mothers who express their breast milk select the best breast feeding pump for their individual purposes. There are many factors that will influence your choice which I have touched upon in a separate article about selecting a breast pump.
Fundamentals of pumping success
The crucial key to successful pumping is stimulating the let-down or milk-ejection reflex. No matter what type of breast feeding pump or method you use, you will want to get your milk flowing so that you can collect it and give it to your baby.
First, it is important to understand how the milk let-down works. When a mom feeds her baby at her breast, the baby’s suckling causes the release of a hormone, oxytocin, which makes the muscles surrounding the milk ducts and glands contract - squeezing the milk and forcing it to flow down and out of the nipple. When using a breast feeding pump, the natural stimulants that are needed to cause milk let-down are missing. It is difficult to pump much milk without the milk ejection reflex in action and only the milk in the ducts surrounding the nipple will be drained.
The first few times that you use a breast feeding pump should be viewed as learning sessions. Pumping is something that gets easier with practice.
It may be easier to collect milk from one breast if you can have your baby trigger your milk ejection by pumping on one breast while your baby nurses at the other.
Try not to rush. Allow enough time so that you can relax and enable your milk to let-down .
Privacy and a relaxing setting can help you to relax and enhance the milk-ejection reflex.
Use warm compresses on your breasts or even a warm blanket around your shoulders.
Breathe deeply as with child birth breathing techniques to get your body relaxed and think thoughts that would ordinarily relax or calm you.
Think about your baby or look at your baby. Smell your baby or an article of clothing that has your baby’s scent on it.
Start with a warm compress. Using a feather light touch, stroke your breast with your fingertips from the top of your chest down over the nipple.
Massage your breast starting at the top of the chest, pressing firmly and moving fingers in a circular motion on one spot on the skin. The motion is similar to the one used in a breast examination.
Lastly, lean forward and gently shake breasts allowing gravity to assist milk ejection.
Technical steps to using a breast feeding pumpMake sure that your nipple is centered in the pump's flange. Some pumps include different sizes of flange so choose the one that fits the best. It’s best to choose one that is big enough in order that your nipple and areola will not chafe against the plastic while you pump.
When operating a breast feeding pump, start with a gentle suction setting first, if it has a number of settings. Initially, only drops of milk will appear in the flange. Once your milk ejection reflex is stimulated, you will be able to see milk flow out of your nipple. You can increase the suction if necessary to get more milk.
Most mothers find that when they pump both breasts at the same time they collect more milk. Studies show that pumping both breasts simultaneously, results in higher prolactin levels in the blood. The easiest way to pump both sides at the same time is when using a good-quality electric pump. If you need to pump most of your baby’s feeds, this may be the best breast feeding pump
choice for you.
If you are exclusively pumping, pump as often as your baby would breastfeed, usually every three hours. If you're concerned about yielding enough milk, pump more often. It is more effective to pump more frequently than longer at each session to build up milk supply.
You will find that your breasts are usually fuller with milk in the early morning. This is a good time to pump especially if you are trying to build up a stored supply for your baby.
Carry on pumping for as long as the milk is flowing. When pumping one breast at a time, switch to the other side and pump until the milk stops flowing on that side. Then pump each breast again. If pumping both breasts simultaneously, you can pump a minute or two longer after the milk flow stops to see if you can bring on another let-down and obtain more milk.
Guidelines for freezing breast milk