Wrens Ultimate Guide to Breast Pumping
Wren’s Ultimate Guide to Breast Pumping
Whether you’re considering breast pumping, partly or exclusively, take a look through our comprehensive guide on making it work for you and your baby.
Are breast pumps worth it?
It can feel like a big decision to start breast pumping and many mums wonder, ‘Is it worth it?’. If you’ve already got breastfeeding established, it can seem a shame to upset the balance and - truth be told - a breast pump isn’t always essential.
However, there are lots of benefits of breast pumps and reasons why they *can* come in handy:
- Baby can’t breastfeed - if your baby is born premature or is struggling with tongue-tie or illness, you can use a pump to remove milk, stimulate your supply and keep your baby fed until they are able to latch on.
- Baby isn’t getting enough breast milk - Worried your baby isn’t drinking enough to empty your breasts? Pumping after a feed can drain them and stimulate more milk to come through.
- You’re away from your baby - if you’re heading back to work, pumping can ensure your baby can still benefit from breast milk during the day.
- Breasts are engorged or sore - Pumping can ensure your breasts are emptying properly, preventing a build-up of milk and uncomfortable engorgement, and avoiding blocked ducts that can lead to mastitis.
- You don’t want to breastfeed - There are lots of reasons why women choose not to breastfeed at the boob, but that doesn’t rule out pumping. Expressing milk with a pump still allows your little one to reap the benefits of breastmilk.
- Share the load - Pumping allows your partner (or another person) to help out with feeding and can take some of the strain off you.
Hands-free electric breast pumping vs hospital grade pumps
Wondering whether it’s better to use a hands-free or wired breast pump?
For us, it comes down to convenience. Hospital-grade pumps are super efficient at helping you to collect milk, but they plug into the wall and need you to stay in one place while expressing.
Hands-free pumps allow you to express on the go and free up your hands to focus on other things. They’re discreet enough that you don’t need to lock yourself away while using them at work or out and about. Plus they’re easy to clean and fuss-free to carry around.
When should you start using a breast pump and why?
Wondering if it’s better to breastfeed or use a breast pump?
If breastfeeding is working out for you and you have no reason to change up your routine, there’s really no reason to start using a breast pump.
But if you are ready to mix up your feeding regime and want to continue nourishing your baby with your milk, it could be time to give it a go.
Some health professionals suggest that you should wait six weeks before expressing so that you and your baby can get used to nursing and settle into a pattern, and your milk supply is well-established.
Some women do start pumping from birth, however. If your baby is born premature, has a low birth weight or other complications, they may not be able to latch on. Pumping from the word ‘go’ can allow you to feed your baby despite these issues and keep your supply building until the baby is big enough or well enough for a boob.
Mums who plan to keep breastfeeding on their return to work may also want to give pumping a go. If you’re considering combination feeding, it’s wise to start a month or so before you make the transition, so you can get to grips with this new routine, swap out a few breastfeeds for bottle feeds, and store up enough milk in the freezer to supply your little one with liquid lunches while you’re apart.
How often should you breast pump and for how long?
How often you pump for will depend on your usual feeding schedule, your boobs and your baby.
If you’re exclusively pumping, you’ll likely need to express as often as your baby needs feeding: often every three or four hours to maintain your supply with a breast pump. If you’re pumping to replace feeds - at work, say - you should aim to express for the feeds you’re missing in person, to replace the meals your baby will be having while you’re apart and stay on the same schedule as them.
How long you pump for will depend on your personal breast milk supply. Some mums find that 15-20 minutes on the pump is enough for each breast, whereas others will need to keep going for 30 minutes or more to empty them completely. Keep in mind that the more often you pump, the more milk you’ll produce.
How do you know if your breasts are empty after breast pumping? Once your flow starts slowing down and your boobs feel well-drained, remove the pump and store your milk.
If you’re struggling to get your milk to flow, a lactation massager can be a lifesaver, offering a gentle way to ease blocked ducts and encourage that liquid gold to move forwards and out from your breasts.
What is the best breast pumping schedule?
When is the right time to pump? As with most aspects of breastfeeding, the best pumping schedule is the one that suits you and your baby.
Some mums like to pump to a strict schedule, mimicking the usual pattern of their baby’s feeds, but others find that they prefer to pump as and when they feel their boobs need relieving.
If you’re pumping while you’re away from your baby, it’s a good idea to try to time it with the feeds you’re missing, or empty your breasts when they become full.
Unless you have twins, it’s possible to pump on one boob while your baby feeds from the other, so long as they’re not likely to drain more than one side in a sitting.
If your baby isn’t emptying your breasts fully after a feed, you could pop a pump on at the end of a session to make sure you collect every last drop - and minimise your chances of blocked ducts.
Trying to stockpile milk or want to boost your supply? Get the pump out 45 minutes to an hour after your little one feeds and your body will likely start producing more to keep up with the extra demand.
Can I breast pump at night?
Pumping throughout the night is fine, so long as it suits you to do so. But if you’re not feeding through the night, you might find that you don’t need to bother and can carry on catching those zeds.
Falling asleep with a hands-free pump isn’t unsafe but, if you’re regularly filling the bottle, you may find that you spring a leak or start to overflow if you drift off.
Wren’s hands-free pump is designed to switch off automatically after 30 minutes so, if you do nod off while pumping, your nipples won’t be yanked to pieces by the time you wake up!
Exclusive breast pumping
Wondering if it’s OK to just pump and not breastfeed? Yes! Exclusively breast-pumping parents purely feed their babies expressed milk, so rely heavily on their pump to keep their little ones nourished.
There are so many reasons why mums choose this approach and it’s not as uncommon as you might think. It involves pumping enough to keep your baby well fed and gaining weight. Once you get into the habit of pumping and storing milk ahead of when they need it, you can get into a regular rhythm.
Combination feeding mixes breastfeeding with bottle feeding, to keep your baby nourished when you’re away. If you are pumping as well as breastfeeding, combination feeding can give you the best of both worlds: cosy, one-to-one feeding time with your baby, plus the freedom to go to work or pop out on your own when you need flexibility.
It can take a while to get combination feeding established, as you’ll need to find a bottle that your baby will accept (without rejecting your nipple) and gradually swap regular feeds at the boob for bottle feeds until everyone is used to the new process.
A guide to breast pump sizing
No matter what size chest you have, you’ll be able to find a breast pump to fit. Wren’s hands-free pump comes with three different sized breast shield adaptors, which you can swap around to find one that fits your nipple.
The pump has a sleek, curved shape, designed to slip into any bra. We include a bra strap adaptor in the box too, to help you get a snug fit, whatever you’re wearing.
Is breast pumping painful?
Let’s get this straight. Breast pumping shouldn’t hurt. You might feel some gentle tugging on your nipple as the process starts, but high levels of discomfort throughout a session mean something isn’t right. If this happens, stop pumping immediately and make some changes.
First, try readjusting the pump, making sure it’s aligned with the way that your nipple is pointing and ensuring it’s snuggly fitted in your bra so it can’t shift about. If your nipple is rubbing against the sides of the breast shield, you may need to swap the flange for a wider one.
If this doesn't help, reduce the suction strength - at least until your milk starts to flow - to get the session off to a more comfortable start.
Engorged breasts could also be an issue. If you have swollen boobs, try to relieve some of the milk by hand before pumping to get a better latch and let down. If your nipples are already blocked or feeling tender, ease the pump suction and try to reduce the inflammation. Keep pumping as normal if you can, but if the pain gets worse or doesn’t go away, it’s best to talk to your doctor.
If your breasts are full but you’re getting no milk when pumping, this may also be a sign that you need to step back and make some changes.
What happens to your nipples when using a breast pump? Pumping shouldn’t hurt your nipples, so long as you get a good fit. If you’re in pain or you have any cracks or bleeding, you may need to change the suction or adjust the fit of your pump (and treat those nips to a slick of our Go-To Balm).
Why using a breast pump isn’t for everyone
While breast pumps can come in mighty handy for all sorts of reasons, they aren’t for every parent. Some mums just prefer breastfeeding, loving the closeness they get with their baby without the hassle of carrying around extra equipment or stopping to sterilize parts and bottles.
But for those mums who want their babies to reap the many benefits of breastmilk without feeling like they’re ‘on tap’ all day every day, a breast pump can be a lifesaver. These clever bits of kit can save time, give you flexibility and help make the transition back to work easier to handle. Plus, a hands-free pump can give you the freedom to get on with other things while expressing instead of being chained to the wall by a plug.
Wren’s hands-free pumps are perfect for filling the gap between feeding and heavy-duty pumping. In fact, our whole product range is geared towards making your breastfeeding journey easier, so you can get on with nourishing your baby in a way that works for you.