Our guide to getting to grips with breast pumps... literally!
Breast Pumps & Expressing: What You Need to Know
Expressing or pumping can give you peace of mind knowing your baby can still get all the benefits of breastmilk when they’re fed from a bottle.
For mums who can’t feed baby directly from their breast, because their baby is premature or has a poor latch for example, expressing means that they can still offer their baby all the nutrients and antibodies that help to fight against infection and disease that breastmilk contains.
What are the main benefits of using a breast milk pump?
'It doesn't matter whether you have big boobs or small boobs, the benefits to breast feeding are the same.
Choosing to pump or express breastmilk means that...
- You can go back to work or spend some time away from your baby (go out for the day or night) and still give your baby the benefits of your breastmilk.
- You’re not the only one who can feed your baby. Your partner or family members can help and enjoy feeding baby, too.
- You can increase your breastmilk supply for when baby wants larger feeds.
- You may be able to donate milk to help babies who are unable to receive breastmilk from their mums.
- To relieve engorged breasts (they can get very full!).
What do you need to begin pumping?
Breastfeeding your baby directly doesn’t require much kit, just you, your boobs, some breast pads to keep you dry, a good nursing bra and maybe a cushion or pillow to help you stay comfortable.
For expressing or pumping, you'll need...
- A breast pump - There are two types of breast pump, manual and electric. Manual breast pumps use gentle suction to attach and encourage your milk flow or a handle that you pump to express your breastmilk. Electric breast pumps use a powered pump to create suction and collect your breastmilk. Tommee Tippee breast pumps are quiet, lightweight and discreet enough to give you confidence and freedom to express your breastmilk whenever and wherever you want.
- A steriliser - You’ll need to sterilise parts of your breast pump and any bottles or other equipment you use to feed your baby to protect them from bugs, germs and bacteria that could make them sick.
- A range of baby feeding bottles.
- Some pots or milk storage bags to store your breast milk.
You may also appreciate...
- Some nipple cream to soothe sore nipples.
- Breast pads to keep you dry, comfortable and safe from little leaks.
- A bottle warmer to warm your breastmilk to body temperature after it's been stored in the fridge or freezer.
How often should you pump, and for how long?
Guidelines suggest that you should exclusively breastfeed your baby for the first 6 weeks to help you establish a good latch and a great routine, then you can think about introducing expressing if you choose to.
If you’re mainly breastfeeding first and pumping to build up your milk supply...
- Express 30-60 minutes after breastfeeding your baby or at least one hour before their next feeding. This should mean you still have plenty of milk for your baby at their next feeding.
- Aim to spend 15 to 20 minutes using your breast pump to get a good amount of breastmilk but remember that every mum is different, and you may express more quickly or more slowly at different times.
- Pump until your breastmilk starts slowing down and your breasts feel well-drained.
- Remember, your boobs will respond to demand, so if you’re asking for more milk by breastfeeding and expressing, they will increase their supply.
If you’re exclusively breast pumping...
- Plan to pump at the same rate that your baby would be feeding directly from you. This can be 8-10 times in 24 hours. Make sure that your breasts are well drained at each session.
If you're pumping at work...
- Try to pump on the same schedule as your baby's feeds, usually every 3 to 4 hours, to keep your milk supply going.
- Remember, every mum and baby are different, so do what works for you.
Our top tips when learning how to use your breast pump
One of the best bits of advice we can offer about learning to use your breast pump is to get to know how it works and practice before you need to use it.
Understand how all the parts fit together and come apart, which parts you can clean and sterilise and how it all works. That way when you come to use it, you’re less likely to be hassled looking for instructions and can take your time.
You don’t need strong suction to express milk from just behind your nipple. Use the mode and power setting that feels most comfortable for you. This may be different at various times of day or at different stages of your breastfeeding experience.
- Find a quiet spot and relax as much as possible. Get yourself in a comfortable position, sitting, standing or half-lying. You may find it more comfortable to support yourself with a cushion or pillow. You’ll need a flat surface nearby to put the pump and bottle on when you’ve finished expressing and it’s a good idea to have a drink and snack nearby too.
- Encourage your letdown by gently massaging your breasts or using our soft silicone breast pump. Having your baby nearby or having a photo or object that reminds you of them can also help stimulate your milk flow.
- Place your breast pump horn over your breast so that it creates a good seal all the way around with your nipple at the center. You don’t need to cover the whole of your areola or breast with the horn, so don’t force it. It should sit comfortably. If it doesn’t feel right, relax and reposition.
- If you’re using a breast pump that has different levels of suction, don’t be tempted to go straight for the highest level. Remember it’s not a race so you can increase power gradually as your milk starts flow.
- DO wash your hands with soap and water and dry thoroughly before handling your breast pump.
- DO thoroughly clean and sterilise all the parts of your breast pump before you use it for the first time and after every use.
When is the best time to pump?The best time to use your breast pump is after baby’s first feed of the day, unless your breast-feeding advisor has told you something different. This is something that’s individual to each mum and you may find that you produce more milk at different times of day and throughout your breastfeeding experience. Many women often find they manage to express more milk if they pump during the night or first thing in the morning.
How do I clean my breast pump?
Always make sure your wash your hands before using your breast pump and keep everything associated with feeding your baby clean. That means washing and sterilising any breast pumps, bottles and nipples.
Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for cleaning and sterilising your breast pump. Pay attention to which parts can be cleaned and which should not come into contact with water, such as electrical contact points.
Generally, you should separate and clean each part of your breast pump and wash in clean soapy water, then rinse thoroughly with clean water. Don’t use water that you’ve used for cleaning other products.
You may be able to clean some parts of your breast pump in the top rack of a dishwasher, but this is not suitable for sterilising.
After cleaning, sterilise all the parts of your breast pump that come into contact with milk, according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Make sure that you sterilise your breast pump before you use it for the first time and after every use.