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The Basics of Pumping Breast Milk for Your Baby


Pumping breast milk is a necessary process in many different situations. It can be extremely useful for any family with an infant because it allows others to feed the baby breast milk. It also creates a backup supply if the nursing mother becomes ill or has an unexpected problem with milk production. It may also be necessary for working mothers who can't breastfeed while they are at work. 

Using a Pump

One of the ways that milk can be expressed is by using a breast pump. There are two basic types of pumps: manual and electric. A manual pump requires the mother to create the suction manually. This can be tiring to the hands of many women. It also makes it difficult to create a steady sucking rhythm. Some lactation specialists also say that manual breast pumps can damage breast tissue with their harsh suction methods.

An electric pump creates its own rhythmic suction to mimic that of a baby's sucking motions. Mother's often find it easier to use an electric pump because the suction speed and intensity can be controlled by using a dial on the pump. This allows the mother to find the precise level of suction that works best for her milk expressing needs. 

Electric pumps come in single and double models. A single pump has only one expressing cone on it, allowing it to be used on one breast at a time. With a single pump, the mother must pay attention to how much time is spent on each side in order to prevent uneven milk production. A double pump has two expression cones, allowing it to be used on both breasts at the same time. This can make the time needed to express enough milk for the baby far less than with a single pump, but it can also make it difficult to engage in any other activities while the milk is being expressed.

Cleaning a Pump

Every breast pump must be cleaned after each use. For manual pumps, this may include running the entire device through the dishwasher. For electric pumps, there is an electrical component that must be removed from the rest of the pump. All parts that come into contact with milk must be washed and dried between uses. This keeps the pump from harboring bacteria and infecting the newly expressed milk. There are many small parts that must be removed from most breast pumps before washing, and each must be washed separately. Then the pump must be reassembled when it is dry. 

Storing Breast Milk

Breast milk can be expressed into a bottle and then poured into a breast milk bag for storage, or it can be expressed directly into speciality milk bags for storage. The bags are made to store the milk in the freezer for as long as six months. If you are storing the milk for only a day or two, it can be stored in a bottle in the refrigerator. If you are unsure about whether your stored breast milk should be used, consult a lactation consultant.

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