Tips from Medela (www.medela.com)
Expressing breastmilk is a learned skill so give yourself enough time and patience to master that skill. Do not feel disappointed if you will gain only little or no milk when you use the breastpump for the first time. Consider your first pumping sessions as practice sessions.
- Before using a breastpump for the first time, read and follow the instruction for use.
- Whether you hand express or use a breastpump, wash your hands before you start expressing your milk.
- Find a comfortable place to express your milk.
- Select a breastshield (the part of the pump that is shaped like a funnel) that fits to your breast. The breastshield should closely surround your nipple but leave enough space so your nipple is not rubbing against the wall of the shield. Your nipple should be centered in the shield.
- If your nipples are very large you might need a bigger breastshield.
- Moisten the breastshield of the breastpump to get a better seal.
- Start pumping at the highest suction level you feel comfortable with. The key for successful milk expression is stimulating your let-down-reflex. Discomfort or pain will hamper your let-down.
- Massage your breasts before and occasionally during pumping to encourage your let-down and milk flow.
- Double pumping does cut your pumping time in half (to 10-15 minutes or less), and your prolactin levels are higher when you use a double pump, so you may produce more milk in less time. When you pump one breast at the time, switch from on side to the other several times.
- Milk expression should never be painful. If you feel some pain immediately interrupt the pump session and ask your lactation specialist for advice. Do not risk damaging your sensitive breast tissue by incorrect use of a breastpump!
Useful tips to encourage Milk Let-Down
There are several things you can do to encourage your let-down and have your milk flow more easily.
- It is easier to express your milk if you are relaxed. You may try deep breathing exercises, relaxation exercises from your antenatal class, or mental imagery (e.g. sitting in the sun at the shore of a lake).
- Give yourself enough time. Feeling rushed will impair your let-down.
- Look for privacy and avoid distraction (switch on your telephone answering machine and lock the door as you are pumping).
- Have everything you might need within reach.
- Following a milk expression routine may help you to stimulate a good milk flow.
- Applying warm compresses to your breasts helps to encourage your let-down and milk flow.
- Have your shoulders relaxed and your back and your arms well supported.
- Many mothers find it easier to express their milk in front of their baby. If you are separated from your baby you may look at a picture of your little one, listen to a tape recording of his voice or use a piece of his clothing to smell on.
- Have a nice drink and a healthy snack handy before and during the pumping session.
- Get as much rest as possible.
- A breastpump is a machine and will not stimulate the same feelings as your warm and cosy baby. But after a while you will learn to trigger your let-down with pumping. Be patient and gentle with yourself.
- When freezing do not fill bottles/bags more than ¾ full to allow space for expansion.
- Label bottles/bags with the date of pumping.
- Do not store breastmilk in the door of the refrigerator.
- In order to preserve the components of the breastmilk, thaw in the refrigerator overnight or by holding the bag under running warm water (max. 37° C).
- Gently shake the bottle/bag to blend any fat that has separated.
- Do not thaw frozen breastmilk in a microwave oven or in a pan of boiling water (danger of burning).