There can of course be a variety of reasons to use a breast pump. For many mothers, it is the perfect solution to maintain breastfeeding when they return to work. For other mums, they need to use a breast pump for nearly all or every feed, due to prematurity or if breastfeeding did not get off to a good start, or perhaps an occasional expression is needed for outings out-and-about without your baby.
How often you need to express makes a difference to the type of pump you would be best using. Often a breast pump is the first item placed on the baby shower registry list. As a breast pump is a big investment and could be the extra key to helping you succeed with or maintain breastfeeding it should be the right purchase for your needs at the time. This you will only know once you have given birth or once you have decided to go back to work, for example.
When your baby is born, the breasts and the cells that make the milk within them have to “switch on,” this is known as secretory activation – the cells are becoming active to make milk. This happens really efficiently when a baby is frequently sucking at the breast. The milk rapidly increases in volume (“milk comes in”) from around 24-72 hours after birth. From this point onwards, your milk supply builds and grows in volume over the next 2-4 weeks. Around the 4th week after birth your body now maintains the same volumes of milk each day. Your baby still grows and puts on weight but in general most babies are drinking the same amount from month 2-6!
Establishing the milk supply in the first month is really important.
I’ve heard that some babies do not breastfeed well or at all in the first few days after birth – how can I build and establish my milk supply?
For several babies, due to the type of birth (i.e. caesarean section) or the medications in labour (pethidine, epidural) they may not be ready to breastfeed for the first 1-3 days as they are still too sleepy.
Some premature babies born before 36-37 weeks of pregnancy may need to spend some time in the neonatal unit. This may make it a little harder to start breastfeeding at first. But with practice, lots of skin to skin contact and support from the nursing staff you and your baby will be able to breastfeed in time.
In circumstances where your baby is not able to breastfeed well or at all in the beginning days or first four weeks it is really important to use the correct pump which can build your milk supply to the same volumes as a fully breastfeeding baby would be able to do.
“My baby needed some help at the beginning to get breastfeeding off to a good start…”
If babies are not able to fully breastfeed straight after birth or feed less than 8 times daily, research shows that it is important to initiate (switch on the milk cells) and build milk volume with a multi-user hospital grade pump (Medela Symphony) which you can hire from pharmacies and other retailers. Medela have a webpage all about their Symphony pump and how to hire it. Simply enter your postcode and it will show you where your local hire centre is.
Once the milk supply “foundations” have been laid in that first month, and you are now making good milk volumes, (around 800ml per day for one baby) it would then be suitable to move on to a Medela personal use pump for expressing.
“My baby is 5 months old and I am returning to work. I have a great milk supply and baby has been gaining weight really well. I want to be able to maintain my milk supply whilst I’m at work…”
When choosing to breastfeed and express milk, it is still important to maintain your milk production. A personal use pump will be suitable for your needs at this time because your baby was able to establish a good milk supply in the first month after birth and has been feeding well since then.
Choosing the right pump now just depends on how many breastfeeds you want to replace each day with expressing.
In Australia most work places give breastfeeding or expressing mums an extra 30 minute break to either breastfeed their baby or express their milk. If you were using a double pump this means you would be able to fit in two expression sessions during the day instead of only one, when using the single pump!
“My baby was born premature and is still in the neonatal unit at 6 weeks…”
The use of a multi-user hospital grade pump (Medela Symphony) is recommended to be used whilst your baby is still in the neonatal unit. Maintaining a milk supply whilst you are separated from your baby can be hard for many women. It is often a stressful and emotional time when your baby is in the hospital. In order to give your body the best chance at maintaining your milk supply it is recommended to continue using the Symphony until baby comes home or at least until baby is doing some good breastfeeds in the hospital.
For more information on which pump to use when head to the Medela website.