Breast milk can be expressed by hand or with the use of a breast pump. There are many pumps to choose from, but only a few are designed to support your milk supply during full days apart from your baby. A two-sided electric pump is usually the best choice. A lactation consultant or WIC breastfeeding peer helper may be able to help you find the right pump for your needs. Most breastfeeding moms are eligible for a free breast pump through their insurance company. Talk to the WIC Breastfeeding staff for more information on their pump program and for help ordering a breast pump.
Some mothers are able to express only a few drops of milk their first try. Others express a few ounces. The amount of milk you express can change depending on many things: how long it has been since you last breastfed your baby or expressed your breasts, how comfortable you are expressing, the time of day, your diet, the amount of sleep or rest you are getting and if you are going through a stressful time.
Practice makes Perfect:
Remember, pumping and hand expression improve with practice. An average mom may pump only half an ounce up to two ounces total, from both breasts, per pump session. Pumping gets easier the more you do it. A nursing baby is more effective than any pump, so if you only express a small amount it doesn’t mean your baby isn’t getting enough at the breast.
Tips for Pumping
- Find a comfortable, private or semi-private setting such as an unused office, storage room or restroom lounge area. Be sure you are seated in a comfortable position with your shoulders relaxed. Relax your mind by taking the phone off the hook, imagining a peaceful setting, or listening to calming music.
- Your pump doesn’t have to be on the highest setting to get milk out effectively. Choose settings that feel the most like your baby. Stimulating a letdown is the most important part of effective pumping.
- Gently massage your breasts right before expressing.
- Relax by taking a few deep breaths and imagining a pleasant place. You can imagine your baby at your breast, look at a photo of your baby, or feel and smell one of your baby’s blankets.
- Don’t watch the bottles or count ounces while pumping – worrying about getting enough can actually decrease the amount that you pump. Think of the benefits to your baby of any breastmilk you can provide, and feel proud of yourself doing this for your baby.
- To encourage multiple letdowns, massage your breasts once in a while as you pump. When single pumping, switch breasts when the flow of milk lessens, expressing from each side several times during a session. Try pumping for 10-20 minutes per breast. Some breasts release milk more quickly than others, so don’t worry if you take longer to pump than a coworker.
- Complete emptying signals your breasts to make milk faster. Milk left in the breast does not go bad. But it does signal the breasts to make less milk. You don’t need to wait for your breasts to feel “full” to pump – in fact, pumping more often will stimulate your breasts to make more milk, while waiting for them to feel full signals them to slow down production.
Expressed breastmilk storage guidelines