You’ve probably heard the myths about breast pumps. Your breasts will get flat fast. The breast milk tastes different when expressed. The former is a myth. The latter is a function of how well the milk is stored.
As a working mom, breast pumps are a life saver. They allow you to continue with exclusive breastfeeding, as recommended by WHO. In Nigeria, there is less emphasis on the importance of exclusive breast milk feeding; it seems to be something nurses use to guilt-trip moms who bottle-feed. But moms of premature babies or babies in ICU appreciate the need for breast pumps in sticking to an exclusive breastfeeding plan.
A breast pump also helps when you are separated from the baby for a while or when the baby has trouble latching on to the breast. When work calls and you give up your three-month old to a caregiver at a crèche, enough pumped milk will reduce worries of your child is eating right. You can hand the baby over to Papa while you take a break. And if used properly, it can give you the extra stimulation you need to keep up production and meet baby’s demands.
But sometimes, it sucks to use a pump. Literally. You lose the skin-to-skin contact, so crucial to mother-baby bonding. It can work against you if you don’t empty the breasts in a pumping session. Your body might be tricked into thinking that the baby doesn’t need that much milk, and so you lose some production. Then there’s all the sterilization for all the many parts. For a long time, I thought I had to wash and sterilize after every pumping session. But I found an easier alternative. After each pumping session, rinse with hot water. Throw parts in a Ziploc and refrigerate till the next pump session. Wash at the end of the day in hot water. Sterilize once a week.
You might be tempted to hand-express. It removes the inconvenience of pump parts and it might seem easier. All you have to do is wash your hands. But it’s a lot of muscle power and takes longer so be sure you really want to go that route.
Interestingly, milk volumes aren’t determined by how big your breasts are. Fat is responsible for breast sizes; breast tissues on the other hand, are responsible for storing and producing the breast milk. What has the biggest impact on your milk volumes? Your nutrition. So you need to eat right and rest well.
Some final tips for use of a breast pump.
- If your breasts are full and your milk ducts are open, you will express milk faster than when you’re hungry or have closed pores. When you bathe, wash your areola and nipples well to ensure milk ducts are open.
- If you have inverted nipples, be sure to extend them before feeding or pumping.
- Finally, you should stimulate the ‘let down’ reflex before pumping to maximise the amount of milk expressed.
Hope this helps! More on breast pumps next week! And if you haven’t, check out our post on Breast Milk vs. Formula.