We all want the best for our children and what that looks like can vary widely between families. Some mothers decide not to breastfeed, while others switch to formula when they go back to work. Women who decide to use a breast pump may not always find it convenient or enjoyable to express milk, but they are motivated by the desire to continue feeding their babies their milk. Whatever your plans are for using a breast pump, you're bound to experience some impatience that makes you wonder: how long does it take your breast pump to get milk? There's no one answer, but Kelly Mom suggested "rather than thinking of nursing or pumping as 'pouring milk out of a container' think of it as flipping on the 'high speed production' switch." In other words, pumping (as well as nursing baby at the breast) stimulates milk production and may get easier in time.
Often the most important factor in how long it takes your breast pump to get milk is the type of pump you choose. You may have heard the phrase "hospital-grade" to describe some breast pumps. While this is not an FDA-regulated description, the Food and Drug Administration does note that "The amount of time it takes to pump varies, but certain types of breast pumps may be easier to use and extract milk faster."
Some women rent so-called hospital-grade pumps because they find them faster. However, all that "hospital grade" really means is that the pump has a closed system to make it usable (with the purchase of an indivdual accessory package) for more than one woman, as opposed to the open system, single user pumps you can buy or obtain through health insurance. Talk to your doctor or a lactation consultant about the best breast pump for your needs.
Remember that breast pumps aren't really "one-size-fits-all," even if advertised that way. You may have to try more than one before finding a good match. Once you do have a pump that works well for you, the next step is to create a pumping schedule that fits within your life and/or work day. This will also likely involve a process of trial-and-error before you get it right.
Kelly Mom's article "Exclusive Pumping" explains that " it's best to pump at least 15 minutes, and to avoid going much longer than 20 minutes. Experts also encourage pumping about five minutes past when the milk stops flowing, often by doing so mom will elicit another letdown, and at the very least will maintain production as well as encouraging increase in supply if needed." So don't get discouraged if the milk doesn't gush right out. Even if it does, keep going for at least 15 minutes to maintain your body's overall milk supply-and-demand response.
If you're struggling to supply enough milk for your baby's daily intake, the American Academy of Family Physicians offers this reassurance:
"You may not get much milk when you first start pumping. This will change as you continue to pump regularly. Your breasts will begin to make more milk. The more often you pump, the more milk your breasts make. Drink lots of fluids to stay hydrated. This will also help your milk supply."
The website also recommend pumping every three to four hours during the workday in order to match your baby's natural feeding schedule. Besides drinking plenty of water, the same tips for increasing supply that breastfeeding mothers use also apply to pumping mothers. Oatmeal and Mother's Milk tea are popular remedies for supply issues, but overall nutrition (getting enough to eat) and rest are also important. Try a relaxation technique before you sit down to pump, such as meditation or alternate nostril breathing. Looking at pictures of your baby while you pump can also help get your mind off of work stresses and feelings of impatience or anxiety. And if you change your mind about pumping, that's OK, too. In the end, what's best for your baby is a matter of what's best for you, too.
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