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Breastfeeding 101: Pumping

You may be entering new territory when it comes to using a breast pump. With so many options and so many details to consider, pumping your breast milk can seem like a major undertaking. Armed with the right information and a little practice, however, pumping can become a valuable option for you and your baby.

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Reasons for Pumping

If you are returning to work, you may choose to pump so your baby's caregiver can use bottles of breast milk to feed your baby. Start pumping a few weeks before you return to work to get comfortable with the process and to start storing a supply of breast milk. You may also choose to pump so your baby can have a bottle during short times when you are away, such as going out for an evening. Pumping also provides your partner with the opportunity to feed your baby.

Choosing a Pump

Choose between a manual or electric breast pump. Manual pumps are less expensive, more portable and convenient -- this makes them a good option if you are only pumping occasionally. One disadvantage is that they operate slowly, given that you must squeeze the handle manually to express milk. Electric breast pumps are more expensive but significantly reduce the amount of time it takes to pump. You can purchase single pumps or double pumps, which express milk from both breasts at the same time. Electric breast pumps are favorable if you are pumping frequently.

Expressing and Storing Milk

When using your breast pump, it is important to relax in a quiet place, free from distractions. To encourage your milk letdown, think about your baby, look at a picture of him or listen to a recording of his hungry cry. Pump both breasts during each session, for 10 to 15 minutes each. If you are using the milk immediately, it is fine at room temperature for four to 10 hours. If you are not using it right away, breast milk can be refrigerated for up to eight days. It can be frozen for up to two weeks in the freezer section located inside the refrigerator, or six to 12 months in a deep freeze or freezer that is separate from the refrigerator section. Use containers or bags designed specifically for breast milk.

RELATED: How Often Should I Use a Breast Pump to Maintain My Milk Supply?

Supply Issues

To maintain your milk supply, it is important to stay hydrated, get adequate rest and manage stress. Avoid smoking, which can reduce your supply. Keep in mind that breast milk works on a supply-and-demand system. The more milk you express, the more milk your body produces. Pump any time your baby's feeding is being replaced by a bottle. Increase the frequency of pumping to stimulate production if your supply begins to decrease. If you continue to experience supply issues, contact your health care provider, who will recommend methods or prescribe medications to help stimulate milk production.

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