Pumping can be frustrating at first. If the pump is placed incorrectly over the nipple and areola, it can be uncomfortable and you’ll be less likely to get the milk you need.
Plus, it takes practice and patience to produce enough milk when you’re faced with a machine instead of your cute, cuddly baby. So, it may take a few pumps to fill a bottle initially for some moms.
“We encourage moms to bring a picture of their baby, a video of her cooing or her favorite blanket to assist with letdown,” said Liz Maseth, an internationally board certified lactation consultant at Akron Children’s Hospital. “Also, hand massage and using a warm compress can help. We do see an increase in the amount of breast milk moms get when using these methods.”
Though pumping can be a pain — literally — when you need to be away from your baby, it’ll all be worth it. Pumping can help you get some much-needed rest and let your baby’s father bond with and feed her. Also, it allows you to continue breastfeeding even after you return to work.
Women should pump every time they miss a feeding, or at least every 3 hours after they return to work. On average, it’s a good idea to start pumping 3 weeks after your baby’s born, but there are no specific guidelines.
“It’s based on mom and baby,” said Maseth. “If the baby is having difficulty latching or is not gaining weight well, a mom may have to start pumping earlier. It can be a great way to initiate a mother’s milk supply and protect it.”
Once you have the expressed breast milk, properly storing it is vital to building a stash of “liquid gold.”
Maseth offers these do’s and don’ts to properly storing and thawing your breast milk.
- Do store your breast milk in clean bottles with screw caps or nursing bags (pre-sterilized bags meant for breast milk).
- Do label each container with the date when the milk was expressed so you don’t give your baby expired milk. Use the oldest milk first.
- Do store it at room temperature (for up to 4 hours), in the refrigerator (for up to 4 days) or in a self-contained freezer (for 3 months). If you have a deep freezer, breast milk can be stored for up to 1 year at -4 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Do clean pumping supplies with hot, soapy water after each use and let them air dry. Keeping your parts clean is important to prevent the introduction of harmful bacteria to your baby’s breast milk.
- Don’t thaw frozen breast milk with hot water. It can shock the milk and destroy important components. Instead, thaw it in the refrigerator for 24 hours or under warm water until it reaches the desired temperature. Limit warming of refrigerated breast milk to 15 minutes or less if you’re not using a breast milk warmer.
- Don’t shake breast milk to mix in the fat that rises to the top because it can destroy amino acids. Instead, gently swirl it.
- Don’t refreeze thawed breast milk. Once your baby has started to drink from the bottle, you should use it within 1 hour.
- Don’t microwave breast milk. It can destroy important components and create hot spots that can scald a baby’s mouth.