Pumping, Handling, & Bagging Breast Milk

Pumping breast milk, what to use, caring for breast pump, and cleaning

When expressing breast milk for feeding baby now or storing for later use it's important to follow health and safety guidelines to ensure the breast milk does not get contaminated or ruined in any way. I have put together this help guide for tips and suggestions for those who could use a little extra guidance along the way.

Click on subject to jump to the information

Choosing a breast pump:
Pumping supplies:
Getting started pumping:
Getting set up to pump:
You're ready to pump:
Bagging or bottling breast milk:
Cleaning pump equipment:
Weaning from pumping: 

Choosing a breast pump: [top of page]

Manual: These are a great for never having to worry about power outlets or batteries. There are few different type of manual breast pumps such as the bulb type one and the squeeze handle method. The downside is that they are a bit time consuming and are not hands-free. My experience left me with sore wrists and lost time. However, they are good to have as a back up or just for small pump sessions after baby has eaten. If you're looking for a full-time pumping option I would recommend a Battery or Electric quality pump

Battery operated: These pumps are growing more and more popular as they become more innovative. The benefits to these pumps are that they have handsfree options and are worn just on the breasts, or backpack style. With a battery pump you can move about with out restrictions like you would with a wall outlet plug pump. There is even a battery operated breast pump that connects to an app over blue tooth to keep a record for you on your pumping. And get this... it's tube free!
The downside to some of these pumps is the limited amount of breast milk they can collect each pump session. So, you will have to stop and switch bags if you have a high output and make sure to do so before they get full. There is also the constant cost of replacement batteries too.

Electric: I personally use an electric pump as it has the most options for my needs as a full-time pumping mom. There are different levels of pumps from the lesser expensive ones only intended for part-time pumping needs and then there are the more spendy pumps that are hospital grade or close to hospital grade meant for full-time pumping moms.
These pumps use wall outlets, battery packs and even DC power plugs for cars. I find that really convenient as then I can use it anywhere I go and have some power source option; just make sure to keep spare batteries with the pump.
Electric pumps tend to have more power to produce a better and more efficient output of breast milk. This helps for those who are pumping often and/or want to get the best results in the least amount of time with a longer lasting pump.
For those who wish to pump for a short amount of time there is the option of renting breast pumps. Check with the manufacture guidelines before borrowing or sharing breast pumps between friends. Some are meant to be used only by one person due to health and safety risks. There is a difference between personal use pumps and rental pumps. Learn more here.

*** What pump to pick?:  Find a list of the best breast pumps for 2020 by visiting this site  https://www.happybellieshappybabies.com/choosing-a-breast-pump/

Pumping supplies: [top of page]

• Replacement parts may be found at local stores but they differ on what they sell, so I recommend checking in advance so you’re always prepared in the event you need something last minute. Or you can call ahead to ask before you drive there.

• Extra flanges - Make sure to have an extra pair on hand in your bag with your bottles.

• Battery Pack, DC charger, and extra wall outlet to keep in car *if applicable

• Have a nursing cover, thin baby blanket, or some sort of cover for discretion when needed since pump flanges are transparent.

• Keep some extra bottles, ice packs, breast milk bags, and a small carry cooler on hand. I put my bottles, flanges, and ice packs inside my cooler carry bag and my pump bra in the front pocket.

• Pump bra comes in handy. You can also se a sports bra and cut slits in it to save money. I find the pump bra more convenient as I don’t have to wear it between pumping.

• Cleaning wipes are great to keep for wiping down before and after use while on the go.

• If you plan on pumping and storing you'll want to get breast milk storage bags, pump-in-bags or pump and store bottles.

Getting started pumping[top of page]

• For qualifying moms you can get your pump free by getting a script from your Ob/Gyn after the birth of the baby. Some companies offer a one year warranty on all parts. If you have any problems due to malfunction just call them for help and if they can’t solve the problem over the phone they offer a free replacement.

• Ask the lactation consultant at the hospital to help you measure your flange size needed. If you need a different size than what comes with your pump you can purchase them or you can order online.

• Pump at hospital using hospital pump every 2-3 hours to get breast milk supply to start up. Here’s a chart that helps offer info on how much a baby needs to eat based to determine how much breast milk you should plan to pump. Keep in mind, this chart is NOT per breast. This is total from both breasts each pump session. This is also an avg feeding amount, so pumping per session can vary between baby's needs and women's bodies. For example some women pump between 2-4 oz per session. In this case you would either pump more sessions or supplement if your total daily amount is lower than baby's needs. This is ok. It's actually more normal than many women realize. This is why we are here 🙂 

>> Print Chart <<
• Get on a pumping schedule:
The best pumping schedules that are suggested by experts is to be in the same rhythm that a baby would nurse. This would be every 24 hours 8 - 12 times at the beginning like a newborn. Pumping for 30 minutes, every 2-3 hours, around the clock (24 hours). Also, when you're finished pumping the last drop, make sure to pump for 5 mins longer to encourage maintaining/increasing milk supply. This tells the body that it needs to make more milk as it thinks baby is still hungry; doing so will help build and establish a good milk supply. It's very important to pump between 1am - 5am as that is when the body makes the most milk due to the higher prolactin levels (hormone that makes the milk).

Once milk supply is settled in (around 2 months postpartum) a more relaxed schedule of just 8 pumping sessions around the clock would be fine. It's still important to try to get the middle of the night pumping session in if you can. If not, having a schedule where you sleep from 11pm - 7am would be fine. If you notice a drop in supply it would be a good idea to put that back in though.

• How long do you have to pump?
This would be every  24 hours 8 - 12 times at the beginning like a newborn. Pumping for 30 minutes, every 2-3 hours, around the clock (24 hours).
Also, when you're finished pumping the last drop, make sure to pump for 5 mins longer to encourage maintaining/increasing milk supply. This tells the body that it needs to make more milk as it thinks baby is still hungry.

I would like to add that pumping on the hour is not as important as the amount of times a day. For example: If you pump every 3 hours (8 times a day), and you need to go 5 hours for errands that day, then go for it. Just make sure you're still pumping 8 times a day by making up for it after you get home then pump every 2 hours, 2 times.

Getting set up to pump: [top of page]

• Make sure you have read the instructions on your pump before you use it. Follow the guidelines to have your pump and pump equipment properly cleaned before you use them. It's also very important to make sure you wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water before handling pumping equipment, pumping, and breast milk.
Your pump and especially the tubes need to be fully dry before use. If everything checks out and your flanges are sized correctly you are ready to pump.

• Use organic coconut oil inside flanges to help reduce possibilities of sore nipples. This is especially helpful at the beginning while your nipples get used to the stretching, pulling, and friction. You can put some into a small clean travel container to take with you on the go. Be careful as it will melt in the slightest heat, so make sure it's in a secure container and you don't open when to warm. Once it reaches room temperature it will solidify again. You can keep it inside the cooler with the icepacks to prevent that from happening.

You're ready to pump:  [top of page]

• Follow the instructions on your pump manual to properly operate pump. If you are using a pump bra be sure to place that on comfortably and make sure your breasts fit with nipples center of the slits. Put your flanges up to the breast aligning with nipple and making sure your nipple can fit in with out touching the sides. Once you have your flanges with bottles or pump-in-bags attached and comfortably on you can now start to pump.
When using pumps with a motor, you should start off with the lowest setting and increase suction based on your comfort levels. Remember, the highest setting doesn't equate to the most milk output. It can actually reduce breast milk out-put if it causes you pain, bleeding, or other problems. Your setting could change from day to day, so always start off low and adjust each time to you pump.

• To help prevent clogged ducts and mastitis I recommend:

  • Massaging breasts while pumping and do not push hard down on or against flanges in order to make sure not to block milk ducts with the flanges resulting in any clogs.
  • Let hot shower run on breasts for a few mins when showering to help with any possible sticky clogs forming you may not yet be aware of from the breastmilk.
  • Do not sleep on chest and avoid tight bras like sports bras that can cause clogged ducts.
  • Stay hydrated - Water here, water there, water everywhere! Yes, that's how often you should keep water with you to drink. If you have trouble with drinking just water I learned that gatorade helps some moms increase supply plus it's good for hydration.
  • Move flanges around up, down, from all sides after you no longer get any more milk. This will help find any hiding milk and also aide in reducing risks of clogged ducts by releasing that trapped milk plus get more milk from each pump session.
  • Using a warm/hot compress helps too by helping to mimic a warm baby, relaxing the milk ducts, softening any sticky milk in ducts to help release that milk and any milk behind the sticky milk and again ... encourages the proper milk production. You don’t have to do the hot compress every time. However, doing at least once a day to get started and eventually as needed when you start to get in tune with your body will work well.

Bagging or Bottling Breast Milk:  [top of page]

• Use only approved sterile breast milk bags/bottles that are designed for storing breast milk. This protects the breast milk from the risks associated with using improper containers that could potentially ruin or contaminate the breast milk. This includes not using ziplock type or sandwich bags as breast milk bags.

• Experts recommend storing breast milk 4oz's per bottle/bag so that there is no waste when it's time to use.

• If you pump less than or more than 4oz in a session you can divide up what you need and leave the remaining amount in the bottle with the lid secure putting bottle into the back of the fridge where it is coldest. You should use this breast milk the same day ASAP or have it combined with the next session breast milk to freeze.

• Take the recommended sterile bags or bottles and using a pen that won't risk smudging, such as a ball point pen, write the date (M/D/Y), your initials, and ounces of breast milk on the label.

• For Bottles: Make sure to leave about 1/2 an inch at the top of the bottles to leave room for when it expands when frozen.
For Breast Milk Bags: You will need to push out the excess air from     the top of the bag slowly so that no air remains and then pinch the seal closed across.

• Freeze your breast milk that's labeled and ready to go within 30 mins from collecting it to keep it protected. *Please refer to our 'Freezing and Storing" page for more information.
*** If you combine freshly pumped breast milk with the refrigerated milk from the previous pump session you have to wait until the refrigerated breast milk is room temperature too. Or wait until the newly pumped breast milk is cooled to the same temperature in the fridge. Never mix cold/frozen breast milk with warmer breast milk as that damages the nutritional properties of the breast milk.
***Don't mix used breast milk and unused breast milk together. 

Cleaning pump equipment: [top of page]

• Follow the instructions on your pump manual to properly clean the pump. * This is important to avoid accidentally ruining any parts that shouldn't be submerged in water and/or boiled. Also, you want to make sure you are cleaning each part properly according to manufactures guidelines for safety and health purposes. You will also make sure to stay with-in any warranty limitations.

• Using clean fresh cool water rinse each part that came into contact with breast milk as soon as possible  

• Wash each part one at a time with dish soap and warm water, then rinse with hot water for about 15 seconds. Use a straw cleaner or sterile pipe cleaner to clean inside the hard to reach places in the flanges and tubing ends where breast milk or condensation may get trapped.

• To sterilize after washing, put parts into boiling water on stove. Make sure all parts submerge under water and leave pot boiling for 5 minutes. Turn off stove and let cool when done. 

• Place each pump part on a clean towel or drying rack spaced to where all parts are able to air dry quickly. Drying tubes works best if hung to drain down. Lassoing the tubes before drying will help to get rid of most of the water and dry them more efficiently. 

• Reassemble the pump after all parts are dry. Make sure your hands are properly washed. 

• Put any extra accessories back in their clean storage bag.


Weaning from pumping:  [top of page]

Once your breast milk pumping journey has come to it's bitter sweet ending you will be ready to wean from the pump. Many moms worry about the proper way to wean to avoid having problems such as risk of clogged ducts, mastitis, engorgement, and other known issues from weaning.

Some moms can simply just cut back pumps, others have to turn to natural ways to dry up such as using cabbage leaves and peppermint oil. There is not really a right or wrong way for each mom since what works for one mom, doesn't work for another. I highly recommend trying these effective steps in this amazing article by MomLovesBest on 7 Steps To Wean When You're Exclusively Pumping.

If you still have any further questions or if I have missed something useful that should be included, please let us know!

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