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What To Look For In A Breast Pump

Mother using a NUK breast pump

By Burgie Ireland RN RM SANC

Now that you have overcome a couple of breastfeeding difficulties, you and your baby are enjoying your breastfeeding experience, but the end of maternity leave is looming on the horizon. It’s time to consider your options. Breast or formula? Each have their advantages. Formula is quick and easy, while breastmilk is best for your baby. With the help of a good quality breast pump, keeping up a good supply of breastmilk and working is possible. How can you go about doing this?


Breast pumps have come a long way since they were first launched in the 1940’s. Initially these were a simple glass ‘horn’ that covered the nipple, with an orange rubber suction bulb. Today there’s a wide range of breast pumps to choose from. These vary from manual hand pumps to sophisticated electric pumps that mimic a baby’s suckling rhythm, with a choice of super-soft sized flanges (the part that fits over the breast) and memory settings. Speak to a lactation consultant, or a sales rep to find out more about choosing the right pump for your needs.

Pumping prep:

Start preparations at least two weeks before returning to work.

Read instructions carefully: especially pumping settings, choosing the right flange size, cleaning, storing and maintaining.

Some babies need to learn how to suck from a bottle. Start doing this with EBM (expressed breast milk).

Learn to feel comfortable ‘milking’ yourself. Begin by pumping one breast while breastfeeding on the other, or pump after breastfeeding. Frequent pumping helps to improve prolactin levels. This is the hormone that helps you to ‘make’ milk. Remember that maximum milk production happens during breastfeeding (or pumping).

When you start pumping, pump for 5 minutes after feeding, stop for 10 minutes, then pump for another five. Repeat 8 to 10 times over 24 hours. When you’re comfortable with this, pump for 10 minutes, stop for 10 and pump for another 10. Finally, pump for 20 minutes. This should be sufficient time to pump enough milk at one sitting at work. Always end a pumping session when your milk flow stops.

If your milk flow is minimal during pumping, try massaging your breasts.

Check for lumps after pumping.

To get your milk ‘flowing’ when you’re not with your baby, bathe your breasts in hot water and massage them, starting at the base and working towards your nipple. Take one of your baby’s blankets with you to stimulate olfactory (smell) senses and a picture/video clip for visual stimulation.

Top tips:

  • Speak to your manager about the feasibility of pumping at work. Make sure there’s a comfortable place to do this – not the ladies loo please – where you won’t be interrupted. Find out about the company’s breastfeeding policy. You’re entitled to two 30 minutes ‘pumping sessions’ per day.
  • You’ll need a fridge to store your milk and a cooler bag for transporting.
  • You can keep frozen EBM for up to three months, fresh EBM must be used within 24 hours.
  • Make sure you’re eating healthy and replacing lost liquids.
  • Join an online support group.
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