Posted by: webbhouston | December 22, 2008

Breastfeeding while working: Meet the Pump

I am obsessed with boobs this week. It is obvious.

So in my last two posts I discussed the benefits of breastfeeding, how to overcome common problems, and where to go to for help.

Sure all of these things are nice and dandy, but many mothers (myself included) cannot stay home with our children forever. I have to work to help put food on the table, as does my husband. I cannot work from home and I cannot bring my child to work… while it pains me to not be able to see the little eyes of my children every second of every day… I still do what I can to make sure that they have what is best.  So I pump.

To begin with… Not all women respond to a pump well. Some respond sort of well. Others have no troubles with them at all. It doesnt make you a better mother if you are in any of these categories, please remember that.

One of the most important things that I learned while pumping (i have been doing it for years) is that the type of pump that you have makes a huge difference.

For occasional pumping just to go out on a date with the husband, to go to the grocery store, etc. a hand pump will do the job. There are a few different brands of pumps.

Hand Pumps:

Avent makes a good manual one that many people really like, it is called the Isis Manual.

Medela makes the Harmony hand pump. I personally love Medela because their pumps are wonderful and they are and have always been BPA free.

Ameda offers a hand pump that I used a few times. It is just called the One Hand.

Playtex and Dr Browns both make hand held ones as well but quite honestly they are awful and the reviews are pretty much bad.  I have heard more than one person say that they wonder if Playtex is partly owned by formula companies because it is almost like they dont want people to be able to pump successfully with their crappy product.

Mechanical pumps:

There are SO many types of these.

There are pumps for one boob.  Pumps for two. Hands free pumps. Pumps that looks like purses for discreeet transport. Pumps that looks like backpacks. Pumps with pretty colored trim. Pumps with different strengths. Pumps with different speeds. Daily use pumps. Hospital grade pumps.

If you are a working mother who has a normal situation where she just needs to pump while working there are two favorites.

Medela Pump in style advanced (or the PISA) there is a Pump In style as well but the Advanced makes pumping easier IMO is a great choice. It has varying strengths and it has varying speeds as well. It starts off with a fast sucking actions, just like a baby does when nursing to get the let down reflex to kick in. It does this for 2 minutes, and then the regular sucking starts. You can make it switch to the slower one faster if you wish by just pressing a button.  I have used three machines in my pumping history. I gave one away to a center that needed a pump and I have one at home and one at work.

Ameda Purely Yours is the other favorite. It is less expensive than the Medela and it has been known to be just as good as it. I have never used it as I have been a Medela mom from the beginning but this is not a shabby pump at all.

Both of these pumps are made to be used by a single person and work with either a battery or AC adapter. I will warn you that using a pump with a battery uses the batteries up REAL fast though.

Hospital Grade pumps:

If you are the mother of a preemie who needs constant pumping because the baby has not learned to suck yet, or a mother who is exclusively pumping, or you need something that can be used by more than one person than you need a hospital grade pump.  The best ones that I know of are the Medela Symphony and Lactina.  The costs of these pumps is very high but they are usually available for rental at mothering/baby stores.

If you know somebody that pumps ask them if they will help guide you if you are unsure of what your needs will be.  Once you have the pump down, then there are a few things that you need to make sure you get right after that.

Make sure that you get flanges (plastic cups that go over your breasts) that are the right size for you. You nipple should not be pinched or pained during pumping. If it is then you have a problem. Having a size too small can also cause you to not get as much milk out of your breasts. This can lead to your breasts not making as much as they used to and a diminishing supply.

Make sure you get spare parts. Things break and get old. I have replaced the tubing for my pumps a few times because it got cloudy from repeated use. Also the valves and membranes that cover the valve openings need replacing once in a while… or they get lost. They are small pieces.



You have to decide what you will use to store the breastmilk once it has been pumped. There are bags that are sold to store it, they are single use and are sold by the box of 25 or 50. You can also just store it in the bottles that you express the milk into. Just close the bottle up and go. The latter option requires you haev a few extra bottles because you have to leave them with your baby while you are at work/out so that the baby can drink the milk, and then you need more bottles with you so that you can have somewhere to store the milk you are expressing.

To transport the milk you can get a little cooler that looks like a lunch box and put a few cold ice packs in it and it will keep your milk if you dont have a refridgerator at your job. While breastmilk does last a good while without refridgeration you do want to make sure that it is either used or cold within a few hours because it took you so long to get it out, and you dont want it to spoil!!

Kept in a fridge fresh milk can keep for up to 72 hours. In a regular freezer it can be 3 months. In a deep freeze it can be over 6 months.  Do not heat the breastmilk in a microwave ever. Not only do you risk burning the baby because it heats unevenly you also kill off vital parts of the breastmilk while doing that. To defrost a frozen bit of milk we usually put it in the fridge for a few hours/a day or so or run it under hot water. You would reheat breastmilk by running it under hot water or putting it in a bowl of water on the stove for a few minutes.

If your pump feels like it isnt working as hell make sure that the tubes are not kinked, that you are fully connected, and that all of the pieces are in working order. Make sure the settings are what they are supposed to be for you as well. If you still arent getting alot of milk then contact the manufacturer.

You will not get a lot of milk if you pump after a nursing session but it can make your supply to increase if you do this, so if you are having problems with supply this is a good tip to help things get better.

If you normally get a good result from pumping but are not getting a good result all of a sudden, and the machine is working fine and your supply is ok… then take a second and relax if you are stressed. WHen I am stressed I have an awful time pumping.  Having a picture of your child really does help to help with this as well. The difference between the amount of milk that I get and the ease with which it comes out when I have a picture of my kids vs. dont have a picture is really huge.

Have nurse-a-thons the times that you can nurse your baby. Yes I know that laundry needs to get done… but it is worth it to me to make sure that my supply doesnt dwindle because I am too busy washing dishes.

Dont skip sessions.  I know we all do it. I do it too. Just dont do it often it really can lead to a low supply which is harder to get back when you arent around the baby 24/7. I know its hard to take time off of work and off of your day to do this… but really try to do it.

Try pumping before you actually need it. It takes a bit to get used to it and it will make is easier if your first day pumping isnt your first day back to the office.  Take that stored milk and freeze it for emergency food in case something happens and you do what we have all done at some point… forgotten the milk at work, dropped it on the floor, forgot to put it in the fridge and it goes bad… etc.  At the same time do not introduce a bottle to a breastfeeding child within the first few weeks. Nipple confusion is a real thing and it can lead to tears and heart ache. Do introduce it around 5-6 weeks so that the baby has time to adapt to using the bottle as well and the first day of you going back to work doesnt involve you having to run back home because the baby wont take a bottle.

Pumping can be a hassle but the rewards are many, sometimes I really am tired of it because I have been doing it for so long but I honestly wouldnt give it up. Since I have to work I dont have much of an option when it comes to making sure my child gets breastmilk. At the end of the day, it is totally worth it.


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