Pumping Breast Milk


Breast PumpEven if you are not going back to work, you may still want to invest in a breast pump and learn how to use it. Pumping can be useful to relieve engorgement, to help stimulate milk production and of course to have milk on hand if you need to be away from your baby for more than a few hours. If you are planning to use your pump only occasionally, a manual one will probably be fine or you can even learn to hand express. However, if you are planning to go back to work you will want to buy or rent a high quality electric pump.

Before You Go Back to Work

Managing pumping at work takes some planning, so don’t wait till your first day back to start the process. Instead, start pumping a few weeks before you go back. This will give you time to get used to pumping and troubleshoot any problems you might have. It will also allow you to store enough milk for your first few days of work.

Depending on your work environment, you may need to talk to your boss to make sure you have access to the time and the space you need to pump. Pumping takes about ten to 15 minutes a session and you will probably need to pump about every three hours, more if your baby is still very young. Of course, you will want a clean, private and hopefully quiet place to pump with a conveniently located electrical outlet. You will also need a place to keep your pump when you are not using it, as well as the milk that you express.

Pumping Tips

Pumping breast milk should not be difficult if you are using your pump correctly. It is important to make sure that you use the correct size nipple flanges and that you position them properly. Most breast pumps are adjustable, so take the time to find the setting that works best for you. It may feel a little strange at first, but it won’t take long to get used to the tugging sensation.

Some mothers can have difficulty with let-down. Looking at a picture of your baby can help. Your cell phone can be a big help here. Not only can you load it up with pictures or even videos of your baby, but you may also be able to record your baby making happy babbling sounds. If you find your phone is a source of distraction while pumping, leave it at your desk and keep a picture of your baby in your pump bag. Another item to keep in your bag is a piece of clothing your baby has worn. Anything that makes you feel connected to your baby should help you extract the most milk per session. Keep in mind that the amount of milk you are able to extract is not a true indicator of how much your body makes. No pump will extract as much milk as your baby does.

Make sure to stay hydrated. Drinking a glass of water or juice just before or while pumping can help with your milk supply.

Be sure to wash your equipment with warm soapy water after every use. Air drying is best if possible. Your expressed breast milk is precious, so be sure to check our article on storing breast milk to be sure you are storing yours safely.



OK: don't want to sound like a major boozer, but I'd like to be able to have a drink or two now and then and not give my daughter a buzz. How long do I have to wait before the alcohol has worked its way through me?

Great question . . .I am sure this is on the minds of many nursing moms. A small percentage of the total amount of alcohol that you consume does enter the breastmilk.  The amount of alcohol that makes it into the breastmilk will peak about 30 to 60 minutes after consumption, or up to 90 minutes if taken with food.  Fortunately, alcohol is removed from the breastmilk at the same rate is is eliminated from the body.  It takes a 120 pound woman about three hours to eliminate from her body the alcohol in one serving of beer or wine (the length of time to eliminate a high acohol content drink is longer).  Of course, the more alcohol that is consumed, the longer it takes for it to be eliminated from the body.

So, if you have one glass of wine with dinner, you can feed your baby again approximately three hours later and rest assured that your baby will not be receiving any alcohol in the breastmilk.  If you plan to drink more than one glass, best to plan ahead and be sure that you have some expressed breastmilk on hand to feed your baby while you are waiting for the alcohol to clear from your breastmilk. If your breasts become uncomfortably full while you are waiting for the alcohol to clear, go ahead and pump and discard the milk that you express.