start pumping

How to Start Pumping 

A good quality electric breast pump may be your best strategy for efficiently removing milk during the workday. Contact a lactation consultant or your local hospital, WIC program, or public health department to learn where to buy or rent a good pump. Electric pumps that allow you to express milk from both breasts at the same time reduce pumping time. Most health insurance plans will cover the cost of a breast pump. Check with your insurance company for details.

Getting started

  • Start by pumping once a day to begin storing milk. Most women find that they are able to pump more milk in the morning because the supply tends to be more abundant at that time of day. Pumping before a feeding will enable you to get more volume, but this volume may consist of more watery foremilk, which has less fat. If the baby is ready to eat, however, you may need to wait until after the feeding to pump. Pumping after a feeding will give you milk with a higher fat content (hindmilk). Or, you could try nursing the baby on one breast while pumping the other at the same time. The baby's suck will better stimulate the hormones that enhance milk production and milk flow, and this may allow you to get more milk from the other breast.

  • Pump for about 10-15 minutes on one or both breasts and store this amount in the freeze. Most women will obtain 1-3 ounces per breast per session, depending on what kind of pump you are using and how well your body responds to the pump. This amount may increase after a few days if you pump every day at around the same time. When pumping in addition to nursing, your body responds to the increased stimulation and your breasts will make more milk.

  • To begin offering an occasional bottle of breast milk, every third day that you pump. Store that morning's pumped milk in the refrigerator instead of the freeze. Offer this milk as a snack in a bottle around dinnertime. This can give you a chance to get out for a bit without skipping an entire feeding. Giving a supplemental bottle during the night can interfere with your milk supply. Warm the milk by placing the storage container or bag in a small bowl or cup of warm water until the milk reaches room temperature. Some babies may be more willing to accept this supplemental bottle if someone other than mom offers it, but other babies will happily accept a bottle feeding from their mother.

Updated June 6, 2016

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