If you give birth to a premature baby or have a sick newborn baby who needs to be in the hospital for an extended period of time, you will need to use a breast pump to remove the milk from your breasts for your baby. It is important to begin the pumping process as soon after the birth as possible, to stimulate your milk production just as your baby would if she were suckling at your breast. Early pumping establishes a good milk supply so that you can deliver all the special benefits and protection your breast milk provides once your newborn baby can be given your milk. The more often you pump, the more milk your body will make.
Newborn babies need to eat every two to three hours throughout the day and night, so you need to pump your milk that often as well. If your baby is still on intravenous nutrition, you will be given information on how to freeze your milk for later use. Pumping will also help to relieve the early pressure of engorgement when your milk first comes in or soften your breasts if your baby is having difficulty latching on.
You can express some milk by compressing your breast by hand, or you can use a recommended breast pump. If you are going to pump for more than a few days, a hospital-approved double electric pump is best. A double pump will help you to establish and maintain a long-term milk supply better than a single pump. You can rent electric breast pumps from many hospitals or purchase a very efficient double pump for a reasonable cost.
The first time you breastfeed your baby or pump your breasts will feel uncomfortable, because your breast and nipple tissue gets stretched for the first few times. Just as your baby receives only a teaspoon or so of colostrum for the first few feedings, you will pump only small amounts of colostrum at first and increase gradually until your larger milk volume comes in, usually by day three or four after birth. If you have had a difficult birth or are worried about a sick newborn baby, your milk volume may take longer to come in even though you are pumping regularly. If you are not producing at least 60 mL (2 oz) of milk every three hours by seven days after birth, you should speak to a breastfeeding specialist.
Tips to help the pumping process proceed more smoothly
Before you pump, touch your baby or preferably hold her skin-to-skin near your breast. Any time you can pump close to your baby, the stimulation to produce more milk will be better. If you can’t be near your baby, place a warm washcloth over your breasts for 10 minutes or so before pumping and think about your baby or look at her picture.
Set the pump suction to minimum when you first start and gradually increase to the highest level of suction that is comfortable. Pumping should never be painful. Gently massage your breasts in a circular fashion for a few minutes while you pump. Try to pump once every two to three hours for 15 minutes each time. Aim for eight pumping sessions every 24 hours, and try to pump at least once every four hours during the night.
Save any amount of milk that you pump and give it to your newborn baby’s nurse. Your first milk, the colostrum, is especially important because it has the antibodies that protect your newborn baby against infection. Label the bottles with your baby’s name and the date and time you pumped. Milk can be stored for up to 48 hours in the refrigerator, up to three months in a freezer that has a separate door from the refrigerator, and for six months or longer in a deep freezer. Frozen milk can be thawed in the refrigerator or under warm running water. Thawed milk should not be refrozen. Never thaw or warm breast milk in a microwave, as this will destroy some of the special protective ingredients.
If your nipples become sore with pumping, try expressing some breast milk onto your nipples and allow them to air dry for a few minutes. Decrease the suction setting on the pump for a few sessions.
Try to eat a balanced diet and drink lots of fluid. Have a glass of water or juice ready to sip on while you are pumping.
Clean all of the breast pump parts with warm soapy water, rinse them well and let them air dry completely before reusing. Cleaning instructions will be included with any new breast pump you purchase.
After a few days of pumping, speak to a lactation consultant to discuss how your milk is coming in and whether there are any problems. Once your baby is big enough or well enough to start breastfeeding, she will likely take only small amounts of milk at first, so you should continue to pump to empty your breasts after each feeding.
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