Why Use a Breast Pump?
Breastfeeding is, for many women, a natural, fulfilling and rewarding way in which to feed their baby. But there is no denying that it can be restrictive on the mother and on her life while the baby is being breast fed. Expressing precious breast milk using a breast pump allows a nursing mother to be apart from her baby. So using a breast pump gives the best of both worlds - the benefits of breast feeding and bottle feeding together!
Breast pumps are used by most breastfeeding mums to express some or even all of their precious breast milk. There are many reasons why mothers choose to use or need to use a breast pump.
Note - whether you intend your baby to take a bottle frequently or infrequently, it is good to introduce a bottle to them well before the time required so that they are used to the feel of it and are happy to take it.
Advantages for baby:
Provides the best nourishment for a premature baby who may be unable to feed at the breast:
Premature babies may not be able to suck properly, but really need the nourishment of their mother’s milk. The mother’s milk can be expressed and fed to the baby as often as is needed. Breast milk is easier for babies to digest then formula, so if a baby is premature, their small tummy will find it easier to accept breast milk. Sometimes the baby may have to stay longer in hospital than its mother, so if the mother expresses milk she does not have to be there for every feed. Most new mothers would want to be there all the time, but also may need to spend time with older children or simply to catch up on sleep.
A breast pump stimulates your milk supply and helps increase low milk production:
Breast milk is produced on a ‘supply and demand’ basis - the more the baby feeds the more milk that will be produced. If the mother pumps after feeding or between feeds, she will gradually increase her milk supply over time and can also store the expressed milk for use another time. And baby is happy as there’s lots of milk for each feed!
Baby has problems with latching on:
Sometimes the breast is too full of milk and so it becomes hard for the baby, particularly a new-born baby, to be able to latch on. It’s easier for the baby to take the nipple into its mouth if the breast is not as full. Pumping for a short time will remove enough milk from the breast to soften it and the nipple, making it much easier for the baby to latch on to the nipple.
If the baby is still having difficulties latching on, the mother can bottle-feed her baby with expressed breast milk while still encouraging her baby to feed at the breast.
Inverted nipples or flat nipples:
If the mother has flat or inverted nipples, it may be another reason why her baby is having difficulties latching on. Pumping for a short time helps to draw the nipple out so the baby can latch on much more easily.
Help to breastfeed twins:
Twins are often smaller than single babies so, like premature babies, it is usually recommended to breastfeed them. While the babies are still in hospital, the mother could use a breast pump to ensure there is always a supply of milk available for them even if she was not around. When the babies come home, a breast pump will help build up the mother’s milk supply to meet the demands of two babies. It will also enable the mother to share out the feeds with the babies’ Dad or other family members. This would allow the mother to feed one baby at a time, for quality bonding, and also allow her to catch up on her sleep.
To lengthen the time the baby is fed with breast milk:
Sometimes the mother wishes to stop breast feeding at a certain time, perhaps because she has to return to work, but wishes her baby to continue to get the benefits of her breast milk. The mother can continue to use a breast pump so that the baby will still get the goodness of their mother’s milk but via a bottle.
Advantages for Moms
The mother has to return to work or college:
While mothers usually like to stay at home as long as possible with their new baby, eventually most have other commitments such as returning to work or college which mean they cannot always be available to feed their baby. Using a breast pump to express and then store breast milk means that a baby can continue to have all the benefits of this milk in a bottle while apart from their mother, at a crèche, child-minders, with family, etc. Expressed breast milk can be stored in the fridge for later use, or frozen to build up a supply for longer times away from baby. The mother can still continue with breastfeeding before and after work, and during the weekends.
If you have the time and facilities at work or college to express, many of the breast pumps now available are lightweight, discreet and quick, enabling you to pump during your time away from your baby. It is recommended you have something with you that smells of your baby to stimulate the ‘let-down’ action of the milk for faster pumping. A double pump would also greatly speed up expressing. If it is not possible to store the expressed milk in a fridge, keep it in a cool-bag with as many ice packs as will fit in the bag until you get home.
The mother may have a commitment to go to where it is not appropriate to bring a baby:
Mums need a break too! Whether this is attend a social event like a wedding, a night out or a night away, or more formal occasion like a meeting or visiting someone in hospital where a baby cannot be brought, it is great to have milk expressed at home for these occasions so that the baby’s Dad, other family member, babysitter or child minder can give a bottle to your baby.
Mother has to take medication that could be carried in the breast milk:
Occasionally Mum may have to take certain medication or antibiotics that may be harmful to the baby if she breastfeeds while taking them. While the mother has to get better, using a breast pump means this is not a reason to stop breastfeeding. Pumping (and dumping) allows the mother to keep up her milk supply so that she can return to breastfeeding when she has completed the course of medication.
Mother suffers from pain while breastfeeding:
Occasionally mothers suffer from breast infections, such as thrush and mastitis, which can make breastfeeding painful. But it is recommended to continue to breastfeed while you have these infections to ensure the milk ducts clear and stay cleared. The suction and strength of a breast pump can be regulated so many mother find it less painful to use a pump until the infection clears, then they can return to breastfeeding.
Relieving the discomfort of engorgement:
Pumping can quickly solve the pressure and pain of engorgement. Shortly after the mother begins to pump, the pain and pressure of engorgement will ease. Then the mother could continue to pump until the breast is empty, or perhaps just use the pump to remove the excess milk causing the engorgement then feed the baby as soon as possible. If the breast is too full, the baby may find it difficult to latch on so, as mentioned above, pumping for a short time then allowing the baby to feed may help with latching on problems.
Mother has an oversupply of breast milk:
If the mother has too much milk for her baby, the baby can often find it too difficult to latch on to an over-full breast. Using a pump before breastfeeding to remove some of the milk will reduce the size of the breast and draw out the nipple, allowing the baby to latch on more easily. Care should be taken to only pump for a short time to remove some milk as frequent pumping helps increase the milk supply.
The mother does not have to do all of the night feeds if there is expressed milk:
The mother can get more sleep during the night if she has left expressed milk to be fed to her baby for one or more of the night time feeds.
Baby starts sleeping during the night, so mother has too much milk in the morning:
If the baby feeds on one side only in the morning, after sleeping through night, the second breast could become engorged before the next feed is due. So the mother could feed on one breast and pump the other one at the same time in the morning. This milk could be fed by Dad later that day when the mother is tired and does not have as much milk as she did in the morning. This also saves time if the mother can express and breast-feed at the same time.
Mother’s let-down reaction is too fast - also known as overactive let-down
Some babies cannot keep up if the flow or spray of breast milk from the breast is very fast. Using a breast pump to remove some of the breast milk then allowing the baby to latch on should mean that the flow of milk is not as strong as from a full breast. The flow should then be at a level that is manageable for the baby.
Mother is going somewhere that is not appropriate to breastfeed:
Many mothers, especially first-time breastfeeding mothers, may be uncomfortable or self-conscious about breastfeeding in public. But they may have to go to or want to go to an event where there are no breast-feeding facilities, e.g. a work family outing, or a church. In these cases, it would be great to have a bottle of expressed breast milk to give to the baby until a suitable time or location was found to feed or express.
Mother chooses to feed by expressed breast milk only:
Some mothers choose to exclusively pump all of their breastmilk then feed it to their baby by bottle. This new trend can be seen as a third option for mothers on the ways in which to feed your baby - breastfeed, bottle feed or bottle feed using expressed breast milk. Research has shown that, in order to maximise the amount of milk produced by pumping, you should:
- Pump often - at least 6 - 8 times a day
- Use a very good quality double pump
- Massage your breasts.
Advantages for Dads!
Dads like to feed too!
Bathing baby and playing with them is fun too, but Dads often like to help with feeding. If the baby’s mother has expressed breast milk, then Dad can feed the baby as well as Mom.
Feeding the baby can help the father bond with them:
A lot of eye contact can be made while feeding the baby. New born baby’s eyes cannot see very far but would be able to see who is feeding them.
Dads can take over a specific feed:
New Dads can volunteer to do a specific night time feed if there is milk expressed for the baby. Then Mom gets a longer sleep, and Dad and baby get quality time together. Or if there are older children, the mother can spend time with them knowing she doesn’t have to think about being with the baby for every feed.