Pumping for Your Baby

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends “exclusive breastfeeding for about six months, followed by continued breastfeeding as complementary foods are introduced, with continuation of breastfeeding for one year or longer as mutually desired by mother and infant.” There are times when mothers are not able to directly breastfeed their infants. This can be by choice, separation of mom and infant or medical needs of either mom or infant. Some mothers will then choose to pump their milk to provide to their baby. It is the next best way for babies to get their nutrition.

Here are some tips for pumping for your baby:

Breast pumps

There are many types of breast pumps available for mothers to choose from. Do research, ask other moms who have pumped, talk with a lactation consultant and find out from your insurance provider what pump benefits they provide. For a mom who is choosing to pump exclusively or will be returning to work, a double electric pump is preferred. A mother who will only be pumping occasionally may find that a hand pump or single electric pump is better for them. Talking with a lactation consultant can be helpful in the decision process.

When to pump and how often

Mothers should pump every time their baby eats. For a newborn, that means pumping 8-12 times per day. As baby gets older and milk supply is established, pumping 5-6 times per day can be sufficient. It is best for a mom to begin pumping within the first six hours after delivery if she is not able to breastfeed in that time frame. The first few days, there may only be drops of colostrum. Colostrum contains important antibodies and nutrition for babies in their first few days of life. It is important to keep giving moms body the message by pumping frequently, even when there are only drops. Once supply is established, it is important to pump until the breast is empty. Typically this will mean pumping for 15-20 minutes at each pumping session. Pumping should not hurt, if it does seek out assistance from a lactation consultant.

Breast milk storage

Once the milk is pumped, it can be immediately given to the baby in a bottle or it can be stored in the refrigerator or freezer until needed. Freshly pumped milk can sit out at room temperature for 4-6 hours. It is best to store milk in a food grade, BPA free storage container such as a bottle or breast milk storage bag. See chart below for guidelines. Milk can be warmed in a hot water bath or a bottle warmer. Avoid microwave use as it can breakdown the properties of breast milk.  Once milk has been warmed and offered to baby it should be used within 1 hour.

Location of Storage Temperature Maximum recommended storage duration
Room temperature 16-29°C (60-85°F) 3-4 hours optimal

6-8 hours acceptable under very clean conditions

Refrigerator ≤4°C (39°F) 72 hours optimal

5-8 days under very clean conditions

Freezer <-17°C (0°F) 6 months optimal

12 months acceptable

Returning to work

When mothers return to work and need to continue pumping to provide milk for their baby, there are laws that protect their rights to do so. Employers are required to provide break time and a private place to pump.

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