One way or another, as a mom, you're going to be faced with this choice: breastfeeding or breast pumping and bottle feeding. Because many mothers have concerns about nursing from their breasts, using a breast pump and feeding their babies from a bottle is another option.
In this section, you'll learn the basics of breast pumping and bottle feeding so that you have the chance to compare breastfeeding and breast pumping to see which is the best for you.
Let's get started!
The Basics of Breast Pumping
Whether you need a break from breastfeeding or plan to go back to work, breast pumping can be a lifesaver for you and your little one.
Breast pumping makes it easy for you to give your baby natural, nutritious milk so you don’t have to feel guilty about using formula and worrying about if your baby isn’t getting enough nutrients.
Also, breast pumping allows you to have a more convenient way of feeding your baby; you’ll be able to get your spouse to help with feeding the baby, too.
When to Breast Pump
The most common question that moms have about breast pumping is when they can start. Professional say that you should breastfeed for at least 2-3 weeks before you start bottle feeding.
This is to prevent nipple confusion, which is a condition where the baby doesn’t recognize the mother’s nipple and doesn’t know how to suckle on a breast.
There are many reasons why moms breast pump, and it’s a personal decision that you should make based on your own experience with your baby along with professional advice from your doctor.
For instance, if your baby has a condition that doesn’t allow you to nurse him or her, breast pumping would be the only option you have to provide milk for your child.
Other possible reasons for breast pumping include you going back to work, experiencing common breastfeeding conditions such as engorgement, build a good breast milk supply, and having a personal body condition that doesn’t allow you to breastfeed.
Frequency of Breast Pumping
Breast pumping frequently is very important because you want to maintain a high milk supply and ensure that you have enough milk for your baby. Babies typically need to be fed 8-12 times per day, so you should be breast pumping every two hours at least.
You should also take the time to breast pump in the early mornings, especially between 1:00 a.m. to 5 a.m.
These times represent when your milk production hormones are at their peak, so you can expect to pump out more milk during this time compared with breast pumping during the day.
After you have reached the desired breast milk supply amount and your body can maintain that same breast milk supply, you can reduce the numbers of times you use your breast pump.
It takes about 10-12 weeks to maintain a good breast milk supply. During this time, your body will adapt to the supply-and-demand of your breast milk and will naturally produce the amount of milk you’ve been pumping out.
Storing and Keeping Breast Milk Fresh
There are several breast milk storage options: getting breastmilk storage bags or you can use the breast pump you purchase. Many breast pump sets come with specially made bottles for storing breast milk.
However, if your breast pump set doesn’t come with its own bottles, you can use regular baby bottles to store your breast milk.
Another way to store your milk is with nursing bags, which are made just for storing breast milk. If you plan to use nursing bags, make sure that you write the date you pumped milk on each one so you know which milk is the freshest.
Also, store milk in small quantities – about 3-4 ounces – to make thawing faster if you freeze the nursing bags.
If you’re breast pumping to stock up on breast milk, the best option for you is to freeze the breast milk. Your milk will last 3-6 months in the freezer.
If you want to preserve your breast milk for longer, you can use a deep freezer, and your milk will last 6-12 months. Whenever you freeze breast milk, thaw it completely first and feed your baby within 24 hours. If you want to use your refrigerator to preserve just pumped milk, your breast milk will last up to one week.
If you notice a change of color in your breast milk after storing it in the refrigerator or freezer, don’t panic – it doesn’t mean that your breast milk has gone bad; it’s natural for breast milk to change colors.
Another note about storing milk: You can add freshly pumped milk to chilled milk that you have already stored in the fridge. This won’t affect the fresh or stored milk.
How to Choose the Right Breast Pump
The number one rule when purchasing a breast pump is to always go with a high-quality one. Don’t worry about the price; instead, think of it as a major investment that’s vital for you as a mother and for your baby.
Even though all breast pumps ultimately do the same thing, there are differences among all of the breast pumps out there. These differences include:
- Suction power;
- Manual or electric breast pumps;
- The amount of suction cycles that the breast pump can produce.
Manual Breast Pumps vs. Electric Breast Pumps
There are two types of breast pumps available: manual and electric. It’s highly recommended that you invest in an electric one because you’re guaranteed more suction, more accuracy, and more breast milk production when you use one.
An electric breast pump is more suited for mothers who plan to breast pump regularly since it’s faster compared to a manual breast pump. You can also do other activities while you breast pump, such as reading, folding laundry, etc.
However, the suction of electric breast pump is stronger compared to a manual one, and that can cause moms to feel uncomfortable. Another downside of an electric breast pump is that it makes noise, which can disturb your baby’s sleep if you breast pump near him or her.
A manual breast pump is cheaper than the electric breast pump, so many moms do opt for it due to the price. But the problem is that a manual breast pump is more inconvenient and will tire you out quickly since you have to keep pumping with your hands. This type of breast pump is better for moms who don’t plan to breast pump all the time and can handle the extra work that goes into it.
There are also breast pump sets that have manual, electric, and battery-powered extensions, so you can use them interchangeably at your convenience.
Features of a Breast Pump Set to Look Out For
- Pump Cycle
Breastfed babies typically suck 45-55 times per minute. This is known as the pump cycle. A breast pump should be able to match or be close to the sucking speed of a baby so that you can draw out more milk.
If you ever need to take your breast pump outside of your home, you should consider the portability of the breast pump set. Check the weight of the breast pump, and see if there's a bag for it as well when you purchase the set. The bag should also be portable-friendly.
- Breast Pumping Action
Choose a pump that fits your lifestyle. There are two known breast pumping action types:
Single Pump: Where you pump one breast at a time, great for moms who breast pump occasionally.
Double Pump: Where you can pump two breasts at the same time, excellent for moms who breast pump often.
- Noise Level
Electric pumps run on motors, so be cautious of the motor size of these types of breast pumps. The larger the motors, the quieter they will be; the smaller the motors, the louder they will be.
Durability – If you plan to breast pump frequently, durability is a crucial feature. You want a breast pump that will support your goal of pumping breast milk regularly.
Choosing the Right Bottles
Although some breast pump sets come with bottles of their own, you may purchase a breast pump set that doesn’t provide you with baby bottles. To choose the right baby bottles, read the following tips:
- BPA Free
BPA is a chemical that has been proven to link cancer and other ailments. That's why the you should find baby bottles that are labeled BPA-free. Glass baby bottles are the best choice because they're always BPA-free. Plastic bottles made from polypropylene are safe, too.
- Bottle Nipple
Pay attention to the nipple of the baby bottle. Due to the possibility of a latex allergy, baby bottles with silicone nipples are the best choice. You should also consider the nipple shape, and there are three types:
- Orthodontic – Helps boost and improve teeth growth in babies.
- Bell-shaped – A traditional shape for a baby bottle nipple.
- Flat-topped – A recent baby bottle nipple shape that resembles a breast.
- Milk Flow
The milk flow from the baby bottle is another factor that you should consider when you go to buy baby bottles. Two types of milk flow exists: fast and slow.
To tell the difference, the fast milk flow makes the milk come out quickly and easily from the bottle while the slow milk flow takes more effort to make the milk come out. The slow milk flow is better for newborns since they're not used to sucking and swallowing yet.
- Easy to Hold
Make sure that the bottles you plan to purchase are easy to hold and can be transported easily whenever you go out. You should check if the bottles can be easily cleaned as well.
Tips for Successful Breast Pumping
Now that you know the basics of breast pumping, let’s go over tips that can help improve your experience with it.
1. Stick to a breast pumping routine.
Although having a routine will help you feel balanced and organized, another benefit of having a breast pumping routine is conditioning your body to produce milk at certain times. A random breast pumping routine will only confuse your body and create an irregular milk production schedule.
Also, find out the best time for you to breast pump; it could be in the mornings after the first feeding of the day or late at night. This factor will help you determine a better routine.
2. Start pumping and storing.
Within the first few weeks after your baby is born, start pumping and storing your milk a little at a time.
Breast pumping doesn’t have to be difficult to go through. All you need to do is focus on something else while you breast pump. Look at pictures of your baby to help you relax and remind yourself that what you’re doing is beneficial for your baby.
Listen to an audiobook or watch a movie to get your mind off breast pumping. Relaxing will help your body release more milk since you won’t be tense. Another way to relax is to take a warm shower, which will help increase milk production and blood flow due to the heat.
4. Never skip a breast pumping session.
It may be tedious to keep breast pumping, but you should never skip a session. That will only affect you negatively and possibly prevent you from producing more milk.
It takes several weeks for the body to adjust to the amount of milk it needs to produce permanently, so hang in there and keep pumping!
5. Keep track of how much milk you produce.
Use a spreadsheet or small notebook to keep track of how much milk you produce after each breast pumping session. By doing this, you’ll know if your breast milk production has decreased or becomes irregular.
Another note about breast pumping: You can use the tips in this e-book for increasing your milk supply to help you pump out more milk. Even if you choose to breast pump, you don’t have to feel guilty about it!
You can bond with your baby in other ways besides breastfeeding. You’re also feeding your little one with your nutrient-rich breast milk, so there’s nothing to feel guilty over. Just be sure you use the best breast pump and baby bottles or nursing bags.
Other Breastfeeding Tools for You
Besides a breast pump, other tools can be added to your daily breastfeeding routine to make it easier for you to go through. Even though breastfeeding is natural, some moms still struggle with it, so these tools can help make breastfeeding less troublesome.
Here’s a list of several breastfeeding items that you might want to get for yourself:
- Nipple Shield
This flexible nursing accessory makes breastfeeding less painful and improves your baby's latch. Nipple shields are made with a few different resources: rubber and silicone.
If you want to use a nipple shield, always go with a silicone-made one; it'll be easier for your baby to suck on and give him or her an easier time latching on to your breast. The nipple shield is a temporary solution, and it's best used as a last resort.
This device can prevent your baby from getting enough milk, so it's recommended that you don't use it in the first couple of weeks after birth. You should also speak to a lactation consultant when you plan to use a nipple shield.
- Baby Scale
Investing in a baby scale can help you determine if your baby is getting enough milk. Your baby's weight is one of the key factors that you should observe.
Even if you take your baby to your doctor for regular check-ups, having a scale at home can help ease your worries when you're not at the doctor's.
- Nursing Pads
Worried about your nipples leaking milk and creating wet spots on your shirt? Use nursing pads to avoid those embarrassing stains.
All you need to do is slip them in your bra in front of your boobs, and you're safe from a humiliating experience. You can choose from cotton nursing pads that you can wash and reuse or disposable ones.
- Breast Therapy Cool and Warm Relief Gel Pads
If you're suffering from engorgement, getting relief pads for your breasts is a great way to ease that pain. These gel pads can be placed inside your bra, so you can make it a hands-off breast therapy session.
- Nursing Tank Tops
If you're not comfortable showing half your body when you're nursing in public or even at home, get tank tops that are made specially for nursing. With these tank tops, you don't have to lift up your shirt anymore.
You can nurse comfortably and get the support you need with nursing tank tops. Purchase several tanks in various colors so you'll be able to stay stylish while you're nursing as well.
- Nursing Bra
Many nursing bra brands are on the market, and some popular ones are the Bravado Body Silk Seamless Nursing Bra, Nizo Wear nursing bras, and A Pea in a Pod.
Nursing bras are more for convenience than discreetness, so pairing a nursing bra and tank together may be beneficial for you. Wearing a nursing bra at home also works well.
- Milkscreen Test Strips
If you're concerned about having alcohol in your breast milk after drinking, Milkscreen's popular test strips are the perfect tool to use to see if your breast milk is safe for your baby.
Even when there's a tiny amount of alcohol in your breast milk, the Milkscreen test strip will show up as positive, so you won't have to worry about feeding your baby tainted breast milk anymore.
- Nursing Sling
There are several types of nursing slings, such as the baby pouch sling, ring sling, and wrap-around sling. With a sling, you can do so much more than nursing your baby.
From chores to grocery shopping, nursing slings provide you with a way to keep your baby close to you and allow you to breastfeed in a discreet and comfortable manner.