Breastfeeding, breast milk, and pumping: What you need to know

August 10, 2022

Breastfeeding has many benefits for you and your baby. Below we share some important messages about breastfeeding as part of National Breastfeeding Month.

There’s no doubt that breast milk is the best food for babies in the first year of life. Breast milk has fatty acids, like DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), that may help your baby’s brain and eyes develop. It addition to helping your baby grow healthy and strong, breast milk helps protect against infections and illness.

One of the many benefits of breastfeeding is that breast milk is always ready when your baby wants to eat. The more you breastfeed, the more milk you make. Your breast milk changes as your baby grows so she gets exactly what she needs at the right time. But what if you need to be away from your baby? What if you’re going back to work or back to school?

If your baby is breastfed, being away may cause lots of different feelings, like stress or anxiety. You may worry about whether or not you’ll be able to continue breastfeeding. The good news is that you can use a breast pump to remove breast milk from your breasts. This can allow your baby’s caregiver to provide feedings while you’re away.

Choosing a breast pump

There are two kinds of breast pumps: a manual pump and a powered pump. How are they different and how do you know which one you’ll need? Here’s what you need to know:

  • A manual pump doesn’t need electricity. If you don’t need to pump often, or if you don’t need a lot of milk at one time, this may be a good choice.
  • A powered pump uses batteries or electricity. Powered pumps can either be a single pump (it pumps on one breast at a time) or a double pump (it pumps both breasts at the same time).

Double pumps work faster than single pumps, and may be a good choice if you need to pump more milk while you’re away, at work or school. If you’re not sure what kind of pump is best for you, it’s best if you speak with a lactation consultant. This is a person who has special training to help women breastfeed.

If you don’t have a breast pump, check with your health insurance company to see if it helps pay for one.

Tips for pumping breast milk

Breastfeeding after returning to work or school can be a challenge, but it can be done successfully with the right support. Here are some helpful tips:

  • Try to pump as often as your baby usually feeds. This may be every 3 to 4 hours for about 15 minutes each time.
  • Find a private place to pump. Talk to your boss before you go back to work, or your professors at school, so they know what you need. If your workplace has more than 50 employees, your employer is required by law to give you time and space (that’s not a bathroom) for pumping.
  • You will need somewhere to keep your breast milk cold. Make sure you have a small cooler with ice packs to bring to work if there’s no refrigerator or a bag to keep in the fridge. Have labels handy to mark your bottles with the date you pumped the milk.

For more information on breastfeeding, how to pump breast milk, and keeping your breast milk safe check out the following resources: