What to Expect When Pumping
The very thought of pumping
breastmilk can cause concern for the new mother. Questions like
what kind of pump, when, where, and how much to pump are primary
concerns, followed by concerns about the milk looking funny, storage
issues and how much expressed breastmilk is needed per bottle. The
answers to these concerns
will vary for both individual mothers and babies depending on their
individual needs and circumstances.
The type/brand of pump
you choose depends on whether you will be pumping frequently, or
only occasionally. It is important to purchase a good quality pump,
because poor quality pumps can result in poor performance of pump,
and breast soreness. A breast pump is a personal product, and manufacturers
do not recommend purchasing a used breast pump. Know
the risks involved if you are considering a used pump.
Check with your doctor and insurance company to
see if your pump and other breastfeeding supplies can be covered
by your health insurance. Many times with a doctors prescription,
companies will pay for a breastpump. This is especially true
for mothers of premature or babies that are sick and need special
much you pump depends on individual needs. If you are returning
to work your needs for the type/brand of pump and the amount
you pump may be very different than if you are pumping occasionally.
NOTE: Keep in mind that the average mom can express between
ONE and THREE oz per pumping session (not per breast, per session).
Mothers who have spent a lot of time pumping, especially
those who have pumped exclusively for long periods, have noted that
as you pump, milk will flow and then stop, then flow & stop,
then flow & stop, and so on & so on, and it can vary from
person to person as to the individual pattern. These mothers recommend
if you are trying to increase the amount you can pump, to pump for
at least 15 minutes. (you might also continue pumping for 5 minutes
after your milk stops flowing).
Remember to pump at LEAST 10 minutes, but no more than 20 minutes
Be sure that you are comfortable. Some moms use
Pumpin' Pal breastshield, which inserts into the shield of your
regular pump and enables you to lean back while pumping. The idea is
to be able to relax a little more.
you pump can make a difference in the amount you pump. It is
quite normal for there to be a lower volume, or amount expressed
in the late afternoon and evening hours as opposed to early morning
hours. Most experts recommend, especially for the occasional pumper,
to express their milk in the early morning hours, about an hour
NOTE: It cannot
be stressed enough that the amount of milk you able to pump is NOT
ever a reliable indicator of how much milk you are producing, nor
how much milk baby is taking in. The healthy breastfed baby is usually
much more efficient at getting milk from the breast than a pump
According to the most current breastfeeding research, exclusively
breastfed babies take in an average of 25 oz (750 mL) per day between
the ages of 1 month and 6 months. This may vary a little from baby
to baby, but the average range of milk intake is 19-30 oz per day
(570-900 mL per day).
To estimate the average amount of milk baby will
need at a feeding:
- Estimate the number of times that baby nurses
per day (24 hours).
- Then divide 25 oz by the number of nursings.
This gives you a "ballpark" figure for
the amount of expressed milk your exclusively breastfed baby will
need at one feeding.
Example: If baby usually nurses around 8 times per
day, you can guess that baby might need around 3 ounces per feeding
every 3 hours when mom is away. (25/8=3.1).
NOTE: Current breastfeeding research does
not indicate that breastmilk intake changes with baby's age or weight
between one and six months.
Attachment Parenting Site has a quick and easy expressed breastmilk
There are many good resources for information on
and handling of expressed breastmilk. You can freeze your milk
for use later, or you can pump and store milk in fridge one day
to be used the following day, depending on your individual circumstances.
Milk volume and appearance can and does change throughout the course
of the breastfeeding relationship. In the early days after the birth
of baby, the body has no idea how much milk to make, so often there
is an abundance. After a few weeks, the body regulates and supply
adjusts meet the needs of the baby, and the "volume" pumped
may be reduced somewhat. Regular pumping will signal the body that
there is increased demand, and the supply adjusts to meet these
needs. It is normal for there to be a drop in the amount of milk
pumped at about 3 months post partum due to a hormonal change. Adjusting
pumping and nursing patterns can help compensate for this normal
phase of the breastfeeding relationship.
What does breastmilk look like? Breastmilk can be
thin and watery looking, and may have a blue or yellow tint to it.
It can even take on a hint of green, orange or other color if mother
has been eating lots of green foods, or other colored foods, especially
those with dye, such as green Gatorade. The color of the milk is
usually not anything to be concerned about however it's always good
to check with a breastfeeding professional to be sure.
It does not always look the same because breastmilk
changes it's composition throughout the feedings, as well as throughout
the day. As baby grows, breastmilk continues to change to meet the
needs for optimal growth, at each stage of baby's development .
This means that mom's breastmilk at four months is perfectly suited
to the needs of her four month old baby, and at six months, perfectly
suited for her six month old.
Expressed breastmilk will separate when stored
in refrigerator. This can be a real shock to anyone who is not
aware that this is normal. Sometimes there is a thick later of "cream"
or fat on top, other times a thin layer. Sometimes the milk looks
lumpy, or clumpy, and sometimes it can be nearly clear toward the
bottom of the bottle. All of the above are completely normal
occurrences, and does not mean the milk has spoiled. Spoiled
milk has a distinct sour smell.
The picture here shows an example of what normal breastmilk may
When ready to offer to the baby, one needs only
to remove from fridge and gently swirl the milk in a gentle "tornado-like"
fashion to remix it. Warm water run over the sides of the bottle
will help when the thicker parts stick to the sides of the bottle.
NOTE: Never shake breastmilk to mix!
can damage the milk, and is not recommended!
There can be many "ups" and "downs" for the
pumping mother, but with patience, and persistence, most obstacles
can be overcome. If any difficulties are encountered, it's always
a good idea to contact your local LLL, a board certified lactation
consultant, or your local breastfeeding support group for information