Pumping breast milk is essential when you have a baby….

When to do it

Pumping breast milk consists in collecting breast milk by a manual or mechanical method that allows you to store it so your baby can keep being breastfed even when you are not around. The most common reason for moms to collect milk is going back to work when the baby is still nursing. It is also useful when you are tired and really need a full night of sleep, since you can delegate the feeding to your partner if you collect milk beforehand. Before the time of need comes you should practice since the process can be a little tricky in the beginning.

Pumping breast milk is sometimes more than a convenience and actually essential for you to keep nursing your baby. You can use it to increase your milk supply since it stimulates the glands to produce more milk. If your baby is premature or cannot latch on to your breast you can still feed him breast milk so he can have all the benefits of it. It is also necessary when you have to start a medication that can be harmful for the baby so that you can store milk to use during that period. Additionally, pumping breast milk when done in moderation can help to alleviate the pain from engorged breasts.

How to do it

Breast milk pumpThere are three different methods for pumping breast milk, the manual that is usually more difficult, and electric or manual pumps that are usually easier to use. The choice of breast pump depends on how much you will need it and if you can devote more or less time to pumping milk. Manual and electric pumps use phalanges that you put over the nipple to provide a vacuum that allows the pump to do the suctioning necessary for the milk to be extracted. Manual pumps work by squeezing or pulling a plunger and electric pumps have a motor that do not need manual work. The advantage of the electric breast pump is that it is faster usually taking 15 minutes to get milk from both breasts in opposition to the manual pumps that usually take up to 45 minutes.

On the other hand, if you only need it as a last resource and for occasional pumping you should opt for a manual pump. The electric pumps are more expensive but can be essential if you work full time and have to fit breast pumping in your breaks, since they pump both breast simultaneously and faster. There are some things you have to consider when getting a breast pump, such as if the size of the phalanges is right for your nipples and if the machine does not cause you pain. You can also get a pumping bra that allows you to pump breast milk without having to hold the phalanges in place which can allow you to relax while you do it. It is important to be calm while you pump milk in order to get an optimal milk production.

You can also choose to stay away from pumps and do it manually, although it takes practice to get it right and is the more time consuming method, but it can help with rare feedings or pain from engorged breasts. The manual method can be easier if you massage your breasts and apply a warm towel before you start and by leaning forward in a sitting position. It is done by placing the thumb and index finger forming a C behind the areola and pressing back towards the chest in a rolling motion to collect the milk into a wide mouth container. You might not get a lot of milk on the first try but you will get better at it with practice, remember that it is important to keep relaxed in order for the milk to come out.


The time and way for the milk to be stored depends on when you will need it. If you want to use fresh breast milk you can keep it at room temperature for only six to eight hours but it is advisable to refrigerate it immediately to prevent it from spoiling. Refrigerated milk can be stored to a maximum of five days if it is maintained on the coolest part of the refrigerator, do not keep it on the fridge door. You can store the milk for long time periods, which might be necessary if you are planning on taking a harmful medication or have to be away from your baby for a long period. It is recommended to use always a clean and sterilized container made of plastic or glass with a secure cap and preferably designed to store milk.

The most convenient and safer way to store large quantities of milk is to freeze it and thaw it only when you need it for the feeding. Thawing should be done by placing the milk container in warm water and never by microwaving it or allowing milk to thaw in the refrigerator overnight. Just remember that freezing destroys the antibodies of the milk that are precious to protect your baby so you should always avoid freezing unless you really need to.

In order for milk to be easier to use and to avoid wasting it you should store the frozen milk in a dosage needed for a single feeding, which you should feed your baby within one hour after thawing and never refreeze. Frozen milk is safe to feed your baby for up to two weeks in normal freezers and for up to three to six months in colder freezers that have individual doors.

Just keep in mind that the longer it is frozen the less quality it will have. You should also label each container with the day that you have pumped it, so that you keep track of how long it has been in the refrigerator or freezer and so you use always the oldest container before it spoils.

Setbacks and tips

There can be some setbacks when you try to pump, it might be hard to find the right place to do it at your workplace or you might not be able to pump out a sufficient volume sometimes. This is normal and you just have to be patient and try to adjust.

The most common reasons for not having enough milk volume are if your baby has recently fed, since there won’t be much milk left for pumping, or if your pump is inappropriate for you due to the size of the phalanges, the settings or simply the its quality. Just do not stress it out since it will only make things more difficult.

Try to detect the problem, always drink a lot of fluids and relax in a comfortable place before pumping breast milk. You have to learn how to maintain your milk supply steady so you can rely on it to feed your baby. The more stimulation the breasts receive the more milk they will produce, therefore you should feed your baby regularly and, when you are not around him, pumping the milk will keep its production by the breast glands. You can pump between breastfeeding, either one hour after or an hour before nursing.

When moms reach full production there is need for pumping six to seven times a day to keep the milk production or more if your baby does not breastfeed, which in total will be around 750 to 1000 milliliters of milk a day. You cannot be stressed since it will inhibit the release of milk, so try to relax and do it in a place where you feel safe and comfortable.

If you feed your baby formula he will not demand as much breast milk, which in turn will make you produce less milk, your body responds to the baby’s needs and the more he nurses the more milk you will produce. Maintaining yourself healthy and rested is also essential to produce enough milk for your baby and if you are having issues with this consult your doctor.