Breast Pumps

By: Eric Morris

A breast pump is a mechanical device that can be used to extract milk for later use from a lactating woman. The way a breast pump works is similar to a milking machine used in commercial dairy production.

Extracted breast milk can be stored so that someone else can feed the baby by bottle. Sometimes the breasts produce more milk than the infant can consume. A breast pump can be used in these instances when the breasts become engorged preventing proper latching by the infant. Breast pumping relieves pressure in the breasts. Also, this can be used when some babies cannot latch properly for direct breastfeeding even though the mother desires the benefits of breast milk. A breast pump stimulates lactation in women and can be used to continue lactation to recover from pregnancy even when the pumped milk is not used.

Breast pumps come in a variety of models, the most popular being the manual pump where the woman can directly control the pressure and frequency of pumps and the battery-operated pumps. However, electrically powered pumps are presently gaining in popularity. Some breast pumps are designed so that the portion of the pump is the baby bottle used for feeding. Another popular design available on the market is the Hands-Free pump.

It is suggested to start using a breast pump to provide stimulation immediately after the delivery. A hospital-grade double electric breast pump can be used until the supply is well established. The hospital's NICU can provide the details regarding the renting of the hospital-grade breast pump. For the first couple of weeks it is advised to use a breast pump 8 to 10 times within a 24-hour period. Frequent stimulation establishes a good supply. So, initially, pump around the clock, although at night go for slightly longer periods between sessions. Initially, ten to twelve minutes per pumping session is enough. Even though much colostrum or milk is not expressed in the first few days, the supply will increase over the next several days with dedicated pumping.

The hospital's NICU will provide the instructions on storing and transporting the milk to the baby bottles. Please follow the guidelines to avoid passing infections to the baby. Sterile collection bottles and sterilized pump kit is a safe option. Even in the hospital, deliver the expressed breast milk as often as possible.

It is important to use the breast pump at least 6 to 8 times per day that the mother is able to start direct breastfeeding. Decrease the length of pumping by a couple of minutes if the supply becomes extremely large. However, frequent stimulation is necessary. Even when the baby's intake is low, as in the cases of premature babies, milk production needs to continue on as though the baby was born full-term.

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