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What is Breast Pump and How Does it Work?

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What is a Breast Pump?

A breast pump is a mechanical device used by the lactating women used to extract their milk from the breasts. It can be either a manual device (powered by hand movement) or an automatic device (powered by electricity). It stimulates the lactation for women with a low milk supply and used by parents who want to return to work.

There are 2 main types of breast pumps available in the market – manual & electric breast pumps.

Manual Breast Pump – It can be operated by pulling or squeezing a handle and can control the pressure and frequency of milk expression directly. In some cases, they won’t provide sufficient stimulation and emptying of the breast.

Electric Breast Pump – It is powered by a motor with the suction, through plastic tubing that has to be fit over the nipple. They are larger yet portable than a manual one. All these pump’s portions have direct contact with the expressed milk should be sterilized to prevent contamination. It provides more suction, faster, and allows to pump both breasts at a time.

The breast pump is gaining its popularity in India. Let’s go through a guided overview of breast pumps and how they work and help them to make an informed choice. It will ensure moms to share their breastfeeding milk even when they are out for work. It also saves a new mother from the clutches of engorgement and heaviness of breasts.

How do Breast Pumps Work?

One can easily assemble, use and maintain the breast pumps, as it mimics the baby’s natural suckling pattern. Applying constant pressure to suck on the breast is not possible by a nursing baby. The average suckling of a baby is 50 – 60 times/minute and gradually reduces when the milk is released.

  • If you want to generate this suction cycle, then choose an electric breast pump, which release milk by creating one pull/second to make milk come down when once the breast milk starts its flow.
  • The expressed milk is collected and stored in a container. As this container is gravity fed, the milk is released drips down into them.
  • The pump has funnel-shaped flanges or breast shields. It is a plastic part to be placed over the areola and nipple to create a proper seal.
  • Here the nipple gets pulled gently into the flange tunnel to release milk. But make sure to use a right flange size for proper pumping.
  • Feed your baby with this safely stored breast milk whenever it is necessary.

Benefits of Pumping:

Babies feeding on pumped milk won’t grab the benefits of bonding between the mom’s breast milk and baby. The benefits of pumping milk include the following.

  • With the pumping milk, you can control the feeding time. It helps you to feed the baby on schedule even with or without the presence of the mother.
  • It stimulates the milk production levels during lactation when used them in a comfortable condition.
  • Also, regular breastfeeding will prevent breast and ovarian cancer by releasing hormones.
  • As we know, breast pumping will stimulate hormones and thereby helps to give quick relief from maternity.
  • These are a great alternate for breastfeeding. It nourishes the baby with all essential nutrients and thereby aids in their immunity building, growth and development.

Limitations of the Breast Pump:

Have a look at some of the limitations of the breast pump.

  • A breast pump may limit its usage at certain places like the workplace (no privacy of pumping), or unable to store milk for later use.
  • The new mom has to carry the entire kit everywhere and have to spend most of the time with the machine rather than their baby.
  • Although, they provide nutrition essential for the growth and development of your baby from your milk. But it won’t replace the bonding, love and affection which breastfeeding ensures.
  • Breast pumping is not as effective as the baby’s suckling and its excessive usage may interfere with the milk production and thereby damage tissues in your breast. So, it is advised to use them whenever required.
  • Breast milk expires quickly even when kept frozen and most women express a large supply of breast milk. So, it is difficult to store breast milk safely without spoiling. One has to invest in various equipment while using this breast pump. Also, they have to invest in a freezer or refrigerator to store the milk safely and effectively.

What to do When the Breast Pumping is not Working?

If you notice your breast pump is not working properly. Stop worrying, as breast pump is just a machine, which may malfunction sometimes. So, to fix it with a little troubleshooting, have a look at some common breast pump issues and learn how to fix them properly.

1. If your breast pump is losing suction:

  • In case, if you notice that breast pump’s suction reduced, then consider checking the pump’s valves and membranes, as they work together to create a seal around the nipple and facilitate suction.
  • If they break/old/crack/any defects, then suction reduces and needs to be replaced for these parts. In general, the valves have to replace for every 2 – 3 months and membranes in every 2 weeks to 2 months.
  • Failing motor functioning, uncharged batteries (If battery operated) or misfit flanges of the pump are other culprits.
  • Also, check whether its tubes are attached properly to the motor and while pumping one breast at a time, then the second one should be covered. So, they won’t lose suction.

2. Condensation in the breast pump’s tubing:

  • It is quite common to have condensation in its tubing.
  • It is easy to fix and all you need is to clean tubing by running the pump only with tubing attached without breast shield part & bottle.
  • It dries out the moisture and set perfect for the upcoming breast pumping session.
  • It’s essential to thoroughly rinse the breast pump every time after using and sanitize them regularly.

Note: Don’t rinse or sterilize the tubing and make sure to replace them every 3 months.

3. If your pump is not turn on:

  • It’s must to check the connections and power source of your breast pump, if it is not turning on.
  • Now it’s time to check whether the outlet is properly working or not by looking at the power adapter.
  • Also, check the cord of the power adapter and look for any permanent kinks or frays in the wire. In case, if you found any, then contact your manufacture to replace the adapter.

4. If the breast pump is unable to pump enough milk:

  • If you found your breast pump is not pumping enough milk on your regular pumping sittings. Then it’s time to check whether the pump flanges are fitted properly or not.
  • The problem arises when you are not having/using the right sized breast pump flange while pumping the milk.
  • A poorly fitted flange may damage your nipple and thereby reduce the amount of your breast milk by blocking the milk ducts.
  • Through your postpartum days, the breast may likely to have changes in its size. So, it’s good to have a few flanges of different sizes as a backup.
  • Always use the flange of correct size to notice an increase in your milk production.
  • If not getting enough milk, then check the pump’s motor and replace those parts or change the pump setting.
  • Also, consider renting a breast pump of hospital-grade or find a perfect breast pump as per your lifestyle.
  • Just go through this, to troubleshot the machine and replaced parts. If pumping issues persists, then it’s time to consult your lactation expert and clear your problems.

Will this Breast Pumping Hurt?

It will hurt a little but not much. The first 10 – 15 seconds will make you feel uncomfortable, as the nipples stretch and milk starts to flow, till you get used to. Even though, if you are experiencing any soreness, pain, or chafing. Then here are some suggestions you have to follow them.

  • Change Positions – The nipple has to be placed in the center of the flange. If it is on one-side then it will be pulled and pinched in the flange tunnel.
  • Change the Flange Size – If your flange is too small or big, then it will pinch the side of your nipple and thereby pull the areola inside the tunnel.
  • Avoid Over Pumping – Generally, breast takes 15 – 30 minutes to empty. So, avoid pumping for more than 30 minutes. If you have any trouble getting milk to flow, then try to use a warm compress or simply massage the breasts before you start pumping.
  • Adjust the Suction and Speed Settings – It may cause discomfort and irritation if the speed or suction strength is high. The highest settings are stronger and won’t mimic to that of baby’s natural suckling pattern.
  • Not to Pump Right after Feeding – It is not good to start pumping right after feeding your baby. It not only affects the milk production but also the mother health. So, give your body some time at least 2 – 3 hours to produce milk for the next cycle.

Frequently Asked Questions:

1. How to feed the baby with the pump of collected breast milk?

Let the milk cool down to reach the room temperature before consuming by the baby. Avoid using feeding bottles, as it may cause nipple confusion. So, one can try using a sipper or feed them with a spoon. While using bottle feeding, you have to sterilize them after every usage with either commercial sterilizers or boiling them for about 15 minutes.

2. How to know whether the breast pump is working or not?

If you want to check the breast pump working, then place the flange (a part which goes on your boob) against your cheek and turn on the breast pump. Its suction should be strong but remember it may even hurt you. In case, if the pump is new and slightly weak, then replace it with a better one.

3. Is it ok to pump both breasts in one bottle?

Yes, of course. You can pump both breasts at once, and the quantity of milk will be no more than 2/3rd of a full bottle. So, one can combine the milk pumped from both breasts carefully from one sterile container into others. But don’t combine milk obtain from different pumping sessions, as it may cause risk to your baby.

4. Is it painful to use a breast pump?

Initially, for 10 – 15 seconds, the user may feel a bit uncomfortable, why because the nipples start to stretch to start the milk flow. One may feel tingling needles and pins sensation. After that, the pumping won’t hurt. Even though, if it hurts, then lower the suction level while using an electric breast pump.

Final Words:

We hope this guide will help you know all about the breast pump and how it work. Either a new or expectant mother, it’s best to use a breast pump to feed your baby safely and healthily. Still have any queries on breast pumps. Then feel free to share with us in the below comments section.

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