Breast pumps are an essential ally to all new parents. They allow new moms like you to go back to work and delegate breastfeeding to their partner or other caregivers. Not to mention how satisfying it is the feeling to be able to provide breast milk to your baby even when you need to be away for a few hours.
Thanks to pumping, your baby can benefit from your breast milk when you're not around. A quality, electric breast pump is essential to your breast pumping success. It adds some convenience to your busy life while still ensuring your baby's healthy growth.
As a new or expectant mother, you've got enough to worry about, and how to use your breast pump shouldn't be one of them. That's why we've broken down all you should know about pumping, from how often you should pump to how to choose the best breast pump for your needs.
If you're ready to master the art of breast pumping, you've come to the right place. Keep reading for more tips, and click here to check our Complete Guide About Breastfeeding.
To Get Started
What is a breast pump?
A breast pump extracts milk that can be stored or fed to your baby through a bottle. Breast pumps are usually used to stimulate milk supply, relieve engorgement, feed multiples, and premature babies. Many moms rely on pumping after they decide to go back to work.
Breast pumps can be divided into manual and electric pumps. All breast pumps are either single or double, depending on whether you want to pump one or both breasts simultaneously.
Keep scrolling to learn more about the different types of breast pumps.
What are the benefits of pumping?
There are many good reasons why you would want to pump your breast milk. Regardless of if it's because of breast engorgement, low milk supply, or you return to work, pumping ensures your baby's healthy growth.
Some moms use breast pumps to keep offering breast milk to their babies even after they're stopped nursing. While others can't produce enough milk - either for low supply or a poor latch - and therefore need to rely on pumping to feed their babies.
No matter the reason you do it, there are many benefits to pumping:
- You can take time off from breastfeeding, whether for going to work, taking a vacation, going out for the night, or traveling for business;
- You don't have to be the only one responsible for feeding your baby. Your partner or caregiver can help with the milk you pumped;
- You can build your milk supply even before your baby needs more milk;
- You can donate your extra milk to moms who can't breastfeed their babies for whatever reason;
There are many benefits to breastfeeding, too. Click here to discover all the good reasons breastfeeding is suitable for you and your baby.
Why use a breast pump?
A breast pump is a handy ally for when you need to be away for periods (like going back to work), and you still need to provide breast milk for your baby. In case you're wondering, these are some of the reasons why a breast pump can be helpful:
- It helps relieve engorgement and prevent mastitis when you can't nurse for an extended period;
- It allows you to provide breast milk to your baby even despite any latching challenges or other complications;
- It allows your partner or other caregivers to help with feedings and strengthen their bond with the baby;
- It helps you build and maintain an adequate milk supply;
- It gives you peace of mind to be away from your baby for a few hours without missing a feeding;
- It allows you to maintain your breast pumping goals even once you return to work;
- It makes breastfeeding more convenient, especially on the go;
There are many good reasons to use a breast pump. Here are some of the most common:
- You're planning on being away from your baby either regularly (for your job) or for an extended period (for a trip);
- You want to maintain your milk supply even when you can't nurse, or you're dealing with medications that aren't safe for breastfeeding;
- You're dealing with breast engorgement or low milk supply;
Why use the Momcozy breast pumps?
At Momcozy, we believe that quality shouldn't be at the other extreme of price. You should be able to buy a breast pump that is both reliable and convenient. For this reason, we invest in the constant improvement of our breast pumps to better support mums and babies.
Using a breast pump shouldn't be painful or uncomfortable. When you choose a Momcozy breast pump, you know that it will last for how long you need it and won't break your bank account. The Momcozy breast pumps are:
- Discreet and convenient;
- Designed to cause no pain;
- Made of a safe material (food-grade silicone);
- Designed with anti-backflow, no pollution, no milk leakage features;
- Equipped with five gears and two modes to stimulate a baby’s natural sucking movements;
- Made with a capacity of 180 ml;
How do breast pumps work?
Breast pumps may look like mysterious and complex medical devices, but they're actually pretty easy to use. Here's how a breast pump works:
- A breast pump emulates the natural suckling pattern of your baby. A baby sucks about 50 to 90 times per minute on average and tends to slow down once milk is released;
- Once the milk is expressed, a breast pump collects it in a storage container;
- Breast pumps usually come with breast shields (also known as flanges), funnel-shaped plastic parts that create a seal on your breast once they're placed over the nipple and areola. Your nipple is then gently pulled into a small tunnel to release milk. Make sure to pick the correct flange size to ease the pumping process;
When should I start pumping?
There's not such a thing as the right time to start pumping. It all depends on your situation and preferences. Some moms start pumping even from 1 to 6 hours after birth. Sometimes it's a matter of not wanting to breastfeed, while in other circumstances, pumping is the only choice (for example, for premature babies or in case of latching issues).
Most pediatricians recommend waiting for a few weeks - usually from 4 to 6 weeks - until when breastfeeding is well-established, and your baby is used to nursing on your breast. You can start slow by pumping occasionally and introducing your baby to a bottle. When your baby is six weeks old, you usually have more time between feeding sessions. You can pump occasionally right after breastfeeding for 10 - 15 minutes once or twice a day. Don't worry if your pumped milk supply is low initially; your breast milk is still highly precious to your baby.
If you plan to go back to work, start pumping from 2 to 3 weeks before. This way, you can get used to using a breast pump and build enough stocks of milk.
If your milk supply is sufficient, you can consider breastfeeding your baby on one side and pump some milk on the other. However, don't overdo it, or you could end up impacting the nursing of your baby.
Pay attention to not pumping too frequently, as you could end up with an oversupply of milk. This can lead to plugged ducts and breast infection (mastitis).
Here are other suggestions on when you could start pumping:
- When you're ready to build your milk supply (either because you want or because you need);
- When your breasts produce the most milk, usually in the mornings;
- When you're resting between feedings - either 30-60 minutes after nursing or 1 hour before breastfeeding - to get used to pumping and yet still leave enough milk for breastfeeding;
- When you're ready to go to bed, and you want to store milk so that your partner can feed the baby at night;
How often should I pump?
The frequency of your pumping sessions depends on a series of factors, including your milk supply, your schedule, and whether you're mixing breastfeeding with pumping. Just to name a few.
If you're planning to stay at home, you may only need to pump occasionally. We recommend pumping or breastfeeding 8 to 10 times a day until your milk supply becomes established. Boost your milk production by breastfeeding or pumping regularly. Your breasts will produce more milk when there's a higher demand for it.
If you pump only occasionally, try to do it in the morning when your prolactin levels (the hormone responsible for making breast milk) are the highest. That's because You can also pump in between feedings, for example, about 30 minutes after or 60 minutes before.
If you're exclusively pumping, stick to sessions of 15-20 minutes 8 times over a 24-hour window. Add one overnight pumping session between 2 am and 5 am. Remember that every mom has a different breast milk capacity; you should adapt your pumping schedule to your body and your baby. For this reason, try not to focus on the amount of milk you're pumping, as this can lead to unnecessary stress.
For how long should I pump?
You can pump for around 20 minutes each time or until 2 minutes after you stop producing milk. If you're unsure whether or not you're finished, you can gently massage your breasts and disconnect the pump once it doesn't produce any more milk.
How can I wean from the pump?
Weaning gradually is the safest and most comfortable way to stop pumping. Here's how you can do it:
- Drop one daily pumping: skip one daily pumping and give your body 2 to 3 days to adjust. Then skip another daily pumping and repeat until you're fully weaned from the pump. Leave the first and last daily pumpings until the end;
- Shorten your pumping sessions: pump for an increasingly shorter period. For example, if you get 120ml at each pumping, move to pumping only 90ml each time. Give your body a few days to adjust, and then do it again. Repeat until you don't feel the need to pump anymore.
If you still feel your breasts are full, keep pumping for a while more. When your breasts stay too full, you're at a higher risk for pain and infection.
How to Choose a Breast Pump
How to choose a breast pump
Breast pumps might all look the same, but there are many differences to take into consideration. Here below, you can find some aspects to consider for finding the best breast pump for your needs:
- Frequency: consider how often you'll be pumping regularly. If you're an exclusive pumper or a working mom, you'll be pumping quite a lot. So you'll want a durable breast pump that can keep up with your schedule;
- Portability: will you bring your breast pump everywhere with you? Will you pump in a place without access to electrical outlets? Think it through before you choose how portable your desired breast pump should be;
- Efficiency: a pumping session lasts on average between 10 to 15 minutes. Look for a powerful and efficient pump if you don't have much time in a day or if you know you'll be pumping multiple times;
- Budget: taking care of a baby is no cheap task. What is the budget that you plan to spend on your next breast pump? Breast pumps come at different prices, from $20 to $500 or higher;
- Features: spend some time considering what other features your ideal breast pump should have to meet your schedule and your pumping needs;
What to look for in a breast pump
When it comes to breast pumps, there's no "one-size-fits-all" approach. After all, every mom's needs are different. To help you make a more well-informed decision, we have listed here below some of the aspects to consider:
- Breast pump types: there are many types of breast pumps to choose from, including manual (hand-operated) or electric (battery-powered). Electric breast pumps are faster and more efficient if you plan to pump often;
- Pumping time: besides manual and electric models, breast pumps can also be divided into single and double breast pumps. Double electric pumps allow you to pump both breasts at a time. This way, you can cut your pumping time in half when compared to a single electric pump;
- Portability: do you plan to bring your breast pump to work? Are you ready to pump on the go? Finding a lightweight and portable breast pump can go a long way into ensuring you stick to your pumping schedule, wherever you are;
- Frequency of use: purchasing the wrong type of breast pump can make pumping even more complex and less effective. Consider whether you'll be pumping occasionally or regularly, short-term or long-term;
- Suction and speed control: some breast pumps offer great flexibility in terms of control settings and ranges that you can adjust for maximum milk expression;
- Quality vs. price: pumping itself can be uncomfortable and even painful. When you're using a low-quality breast pump, the chances of issues arising at any time are higher. Look for a high-quality pump that does the job well without costing a fortune (check out our Momcozy breast pumps);
- Product support & warranty: you might not be using your breast pump for years, but it's annoying when it stops working when you need it most;
- BPA free: BPA (Bisphenol A) is a hormone-disrupting chemical that is found in polycarbonate plastic and can cause health problems to your baby;
- Nipple size: pick the breast shields in a size that matches your nipple size. Breast shields are essential because they stimulate your breasts for efficient milk expression and comfort. For this reason, they shouldn't be too large or too small to make pumping more effective and less painful. Breastshields are available in a series of size, where the medium size (24 mm) is the most common one;
- Availability of spare parts: check whether your breast pump manufacturer provides any spare parts in case yours are lost or damaged;
Types of Breast Pumps
Breast pumps might look all alike, but there are actually significant differences among each type. Once you understand better what type you need, you're more likely to pick a breast pump that will make pumping much easier for you.
There are four main categories of breast pumps:
- Electric breast pumps: they're efficient, portable, and adjustable in terms of suction and speed. While all-electric breast pumps require electricity to function, some models feature rechargeable batteries to pump on the go. They usually come with a carrying case and cooler for milk transport. There are single and double models available, but most parents prefer a double for higher efficiency;
- Wearable electric breast pumps (also known as hands-free pumps): if you worry about getting bored while pumping or you're too busy, you can opt for a hands-free breast pump. With a hands-free pump, you can pump while you're reading, working, talking on the phone, sending emails, and more. Wearable breast pumps slip right into your nursing bra, and they're more discreet than other pump types. Check out our comprehensive collection of hands-free breast pumps!
- Manual breast pumps: manual pumps are affordable, but they're also highly inconvenient, especially if you plan to pump regularly. They work through the pressing motion of your hand to create suction and pump breast milk. They have no motor, but they're not the best choice if you want to pump several times a day;
- Hospital-grade breast pumps: these heavy breast pumps extract milk quickly, but they lack portability. They're the size of a car battery and weigh between 5 to 11 pounds. Hospital-grade pumps are usually rented, and they can cost over $1000;
What type is the best for you?
- If you're planning to pump regularly (even every day), you should invest in an electric breast pump;
- If you're planning to pump while on the go (or on the office), you should try a hands-free breast pump;
- If you're busy or want to spend more time doing what you want or ought to do, you should opt for a double electric breast pump;
The features to look for in a breast pump
There's not a "one-size-fits-all" approach to breast pumps. When considering the features to look for, think about how and where you plan to use your breast pump. You'll want to opt for something compact and quiet if you need one for the office. If you're pumping at home, there are other features you can consider.
We have listed here below some of the main features to look for in your next breast pump:
- Warranty: you'll be using your breast pump every day, so make sure to look for a model with at least a one-year warranty;
- Double pumping: get a double breast pump if you plan to pump often or at work. When expressing both breasts at once, you can expect to complete a pumping session within 10 to 15 minutes. Double breast pumps are not only faster but also better for milk production. They stimulate the production of prolactin, a hormone responsible for milk production;
- Weight: you'll probably have to carry your breast pump everywhere with you for some time. Make sure to check the weight of your desired model and to get the lightest pump possible within your price range;
- LCD and memory indicator: some breast pumps are equipped with an LCD panel and programmable memory to record your preferred pumping pattern;
- Insulated storage compartments: look for compartments in the pump's carrying case, especially if you'll be pumping on the go. You'll need to bring with you an ice pack or two to store your breast milk;
- Carrying case: not all breast pump carrying cases look boring or awkward. Some carrying cases have a more stylish design with a shoulder strap to carry your breast pump everywhere with you;
- Adapter & batteries: if you're pumping on the go and don't have access to an electrical outlet, find a pump that can run on batteries or that includes an adapter that you can attach to your car's cigarette lighter;
- Suction settings: the best pumps mimic your baby's natural nursing rhythm with two modes: rapid and slower. These two phases together offer a more authentic breastfeeding experience with increased milk flow and shorter pumping time;
What are the best pumping products and accessories?
Pumping is not easy, but it can look even more daunting when you've just got started. Besides your breast pump, make sure to invest in other pumping accessories that will make your life as a pumping parent a lot more convenient.
Here's what we recommend:
- A comfortable hands-free pumping bra to keep your hands free while you pump;
- Sturdy breast milk storage bags to transport and store your expressed milk;
- Handy nursing pads to catch any leaks in your bra or tank;
- A baby-friendly nipple cream to heal and protect sore nipples;
- Protective nipple shields to help shape and protect your nipple as your baby feeds;
- A cozy nursing pillow to make nursing more pleasant;
- A durable bottle brush to clean your pump's nooks;
- A cooler bag to keep your milk cool when you're not at home;
- A private nursing cover for added privacy;
- Delicious snacks that are easy to eat and to prepare, as nursing burns up to 400 additional calories a day;
How to Use & Clean a Breast Pump
How to get started
There's a saying among pediatrics that says "breast is best." Breastfeeding brings many benefits to both you and your baby. Most doctors recommend feeding your baby with breast milk for about six months before starting to supplement with water, formula, or juice.
Here are some tips on how to get started with pumping:
- Sterilize and clean all your breast pump parts before use;
- Use the product manual to become more familiar with your breast pump;
- Find a comfortable, quiet place to pump;
- Look at a photo of your baby, listen to his sounds, or close your eyes and imagine having him in your arms to stimulate your milk production;
- Start at low suction and then increase it when the milk starts flowing;
You can follow these general steps when pumping:
- Wash your hands with soap and warm water;
- Massage your breasts gently by squeezing and pulling the breast out and then releasing it as it falls back to its place;
- Center one nipple inside the flange of your breast pump and position it flat against your breast;
- Turn the breast pump on until when there's no milk left in your breasts;
- Wait for a few minutes before unplugging it to make sure that your breasts are voided;
- Cleanse all drops of breast milk;
How to set up your new breast pump
Becoming a parent is both a challenging and enjoyable experience. When you're not familiar with breastfeeding, the idea of pumping may feel overwhelming. You open the box and see a series of tubes, small parts, and bottles. Here's how you can set up your pump with just a few simple steps:
- Don't wait until your baby arrives to set up your pump;
- Read the instruction manual to learn how to use your pump;
- Sterilize your breast pump parts before use;
- Take your time to get familiar with all the breast pump parts involved in the pumping process;
- Invest in other breast pump accessories, such as nursing pads, a breast pump tote bag, hands-free bra, a nursing pillow, and more;
How to use a breast pump
Using a breast pump is a simple task, but it can take some practice. Don't worry if it takes several minutes before your milk begins to flow. Be patient, and you'll find it easier as time goes by.
Here's how you can use your breast pump correctly:
- Check the instruction manual to take note of any special features or warnings that you should consider;
- Make sure all your breast pump parts are clean and sterilized before use;
- Wash your hands to ensure they're clean;
- Prepare the breast shield, milk container, tubing, and breast pump;
- Place the breast shield on your nipple;
- Turn the electric pump on;
- Think about your baby to stimulate your milk production;
- Find a comfortable place to relax away from distractions;
- Stick to a breast pumping schedule to help your body produce more milk as demand increases;
- After each use, clean the breast shield and all parts that came into contact with the breast milk;
How much should I pump?
The amount of milk you can expect to pump will vary depending on a series of factors, including your diet, your baby's age, the pump type, the time since the last feeding, the time of the day, your level of experience with pumping, and your current stress levels.
These are some general guidelines when it comes to pumping:
- You'll produce more milk in the morning, and your milk volumes will decrease gradually during the day into the evening;
- Besides depending on many variables, your breast milk volumes may also vary between each breast;
- The more you pump, the more milk your body will produce;
- Pumping takes practice, so don't worry if you don't produce lots of milk automatically;
- Right after giving birth, your baby's stomach is still very tiny, so it's normal not to pump very much milk during the first few days after birth;
- Babies take more milk from the bottle than when breastfeeding because of the faster and steadier flow of the bottle. Pick a slow-flow bottle to prevent overfeeding your baby;
- A typical pumping session might last anywhere between 25 to 30 minutes;
- All moms are different: some produce more milk, and others produce less;
- If you're not sure whether your milk volume is right or low, you can ask your doctor or a lactation consultant;
If you're only pumping, try to stick to milk production of 750 - 1,035ml per 24 hours. Here are more suggestions on how much milk you can expect to pump based on your child's age:
- Days 5-7 - Up to 2oz.
- 1 to 3 weeks old - Up to about 3oz.
- Four weeks to 6 months old - Up to 5oz.
How to store your breast milk
Pumping is only one part of the story. You'll also need to learn how to store breast milk. Many breast pumps are equipped with custom containers that you can use as storage and feeding bottles. You can also keep your milk in designated nursing bags, which are sterile, thick, and meant for breast milk.
Make sure to store milk in small quantities - best 3-4 ounces at a time - for easy thawing and to avoid wasting it. You can thaw milk by running it under warm water or placing the bottle in a cup of warm water until it reaches room temperature. Thawed milk should always be used within 24 hours, and remember never to boil or microwave breast milk.
Expressed milk can stay fresh at room temperature for up to 4 hours. Keep breast milk away from the sun or other sources of heat. You can also store breast milk in the refrigerator for up to 4 days and in the freezer for 6-12 months. However, you'd better store it for up to 6 months to keep all its nutrients intact.
Remember to label each container with the date and always use the oldest milk first. If you're freezing your milk, leave an inch of space at the top of the container for further expansion once de-frozen.
It's a good idea to prepare a week's supply of breast milk if your baby is hungry when you're not ready to feed him.
How to clean your breast pumps
We recommend washing your breast pump parts after each pumping session and clean them thoroughly at least once a day. If you don't have enough time or forget to wash them, make sure to place them in a clean plastic bag at least and store them in the refrigerator. This will slow down the spread of bacteria. Your breast milk is indeed made to kill bacteria effectively until 12 hours after leaving the breast. However, it won't be as effective if your breast pump parts are exposed to pathogens.
Here's what you can do to clean your breast pumps:
- Disconnect all the washable pumping parts from the tubing;
- Clean the parts of your breast pump in hot and soapy water;
- Wipe down the electrical units and batteries, but don't soak them in water;
- Sterilize all the washable parts every 4-5 days by placing them in boiling water, the top rack of your dishwasher, or in a microwave sterilizer bag;
- Air-fry your breast milk pump equipment on a clean surface;
- Make sure to check the manufacturer's recommended washing instructions, as not all breast pumps are the same;
Common Pumping Challenges
How to Reach and Maintain Full Milk Production
Our bodies are mysterious machines. When pumping, the more often you drain your breasts, the more milk they will make. Here below, we have listed some tips on how to reach and maintain total milk production.
From Birth to Day 4
- When possible, start pumping within 6 hours after birth;
- Get started with a multi-user pump, and expect to pump just a little colostrum (the first milk) at the beginning;
- Pump 8-10 times every 24 hours;
- Pump both breasts at once to save time and boost milk production more quickly;
- Pump for at least 10-20 minutes and then hand express any remaining milk;
- To establish milk supply, pump at least twice between 1 and 6 am;
- Try to pump more often in the early hours, as that's when your milk-making hormone levels are at their highest levels;
From Day 4 to Full Production
- From Day 4 onwards, you should try to increase your milk supply from drops to ounces;
- Pump longer for 2 minutes after the last drop of milk or until your breasts no longer feel full;
- Focus on the total number of pumpings per day (8-10 times every 24 hours), rather than on the time spent between pumpings (every 2-3 hours);
- Keep the time between pumpings within 5 hours;
- Focus on the daily total number of pumpings rather than pumping at a set time each day;
- If the flow of breast milk stops earlier than usual, eat or drink something and then make another attempt;
- Don't give up as increasing your milk supply will take time;
Maintaining Your Full Milk Production (25-35 oz. or 750-1,050 mL per 24 hour period)
- Now that you've reached your goal, you can pump fewer times each day and maintain your milk production;
- Keep a schedule to continue producing 25-35 oz of breast milk in 24 hours;
- Once total production is developed, you can try and sleep more;
- At this time, many moms pump right before bed and first thing in the morning;
- Pump for a shorter period (many times 10-15 minutes of pumping is enough);
How to increase your milk production
What if your breast milk is not enough? If you need to boost your milk production, the sooner you start, the faster you'll see results. Here are some tips on how to boost your milk production:
- Pump more to 8-12 pumpings for 24 hours;
- Pump for longer until 2 minutes after the last drop of milk;
- Check your breast flange size, as it can change with time;
- Massage your breasts before and after pumping;
- Hand express your breasts after pumping;
- Ask your doctor for help or additional information on how you can increase your milk supply;
How to maintain your breast milk production
Breastfeeding follows the rule of supply and demand: the more you're pumping and nursing, the more milk your body will produce. To maintain your milk supply, try to pump at the same rate that your baby would be feeding directly from you. Here are other suggestions on how to maintain your milk supply while pumping:
- Relax and get comfortable - When you feel happy, your body produces oxytocin, the hormone of relaxation and happiness that signals it's time for the milk in your breasts to be released;
- Look at photos of your baby or listen to soothing music;
- Compress and massage both breasts when pumping;
- When no more milk is expressed from the pump, hand express your breasts for a few minutes to ensure you've drained both as fully as possible;
- Check with your doctor whether any birth control pills or other medications you're taking might be affecting your milk supply;
How to pump at work
Your overall goal should be to empty your breasts at least seven times in 24 hours. When you're working, you can aim for every 2.5 to 3 hours. Make sure not to pump right before going back home to leave enough milk for your baby.
Pumping at work can feel challenging at first. Here are some tips you can follow to make the whole process much more straightforward:
- Choose the right pump for you based on a series of features, including portability, power source, privacy, and noise level;
- Become a breastfeeding pro during maternity leave to be prepared for when you'll return to work;
- If you just can't stop working, you can use the time you pump to catch up on emails and do some light reading;
- Don't over-stress yourself, and don't feel guilty, either. You won't still probably take as many breaks as most of your smoker colleagues;
- Maintain a strict pumping schedule with each session lasting at least 15 minutes;
- Mark off time for your daily pumping breaks so that you'll reduce the chance of forgetting to pump or arranging meetings for the same periods;
- Build a stock of milk to give yourself some peace of mind before returning to work;
- Bring your baby's T-shirt or a photo from home. Your baby's smell will trick your body into thinking he's nearby and help you relax;
- Keep ice packs or a small fridge near you to keep milk cold and safe for your baby;
- Know that pumping in the office is entirely legal;
- Pump in a room with a lock on the door to have enough privacy and relax while pumping;
This is general information and does not replace the advice of your healthcare provider. If you have a problem you cannot solve quickly, seek help right away. Every baby is different. If in doubt, contact your doctor or healthcare provider.
The Wrap Up
Being a parent can be challenging, and pumping is no joke. A breast pump can help you pump on your term and leave your baby for some time while still providing for him. But also remember that, no matter how tired and overwhelmed you might feel, what you're doing for your little one is already enough. In your baby's eyes, no one does it better than you.
So pat yourself on the shoulder and be proud of yourself! Believe that once you find the right breast pump and practice for some time, pumping will become more manageable. We at Momcozy are there to support you along with all the steps to your journey into parenthood.