Moms have a lot of options when it comes to feeding their baby. They can choose to breastfeed, pump breast milk, use baby formula or combine a few of these options.
Most use a combination, says Jaclyn Haak, director of nursing inpatient for Sanford Women’s in Fargo, North Dakota.
“Even a mom who is directly breastfeeding still has to pump every once in a while,” Haak said.
Work and other activities can make it difficult to only breastfeed.
“Most moms work outside the home and/or maybe just want to be able to get away for a minute.”
Some moms prefer to pump.
“Some moms have a baby that struggles with latching, and some moms just don’t enjoy latching their baby at breast and they prefer pumping,” Haak said.
Ultimately, the decision should be one that fits that family’s needs. “It’s really about whatever works for that family,” Haak said. “That’s what they should choose to feed their baby.”
Tips for pumping breast milk
Simple adjustments can make it easier to use a breast pump. Here’s what Haak recommends:
- Pump regularly: “Unless you’re pumping to tell your body or having a baby nurse, your body’s not going to make that milk,” Haak said. “You have to pump milk as a use-or-lose-it situation.” Sanford Health experts recommend pumping at the same times that the baby would normally feed, or about eight times per day.
- Relax: Haak recommends finding a way to distract yourself, since stress can make it harder to pump. Put on soothing music or read a light article to reduce tension before pumping.
- Seek support: Call Sanford Health’s lactation support hotline, visit a support group or talk with your provider for help. “No question is a stupid question,” Haak said. “We’ve heard all of them, and we expect that you have questions as a new mom. Nobody should be hesitant to reach out because this is a really easy way for us to help.”
How to store breast milk
Moms can use bottles or storage bags to preserve milk after pumping.
Haak says that bags make an ideal choice, since they can be flattened and stored in the freezer. “Then, they’re stackable, and you’ve saved so much space when you do that.”
Once you’re ready to store it, make sure to include the date and time on the expressed milk. How long the milk lasts will depend on temperature and where it’s stored.
“It’s good at room temperature, freshly pumped on the counter for about five hours,” Haak said. “It’s good in the fridge for about five days. It’s good in the freezer for about five months.”
After that, the milk is still usable, though it may start to lose some of its nutritional benefits.
“The milk doesn’t necessarily go bad in the freezer after that,” Haak said. “It’s just some of the nutritional components start to decrease.”
How to choose a breast pump
There are many types of pumps to choose from, so you can find the option that best fits your lifestyle and budget. Some parents prefer a hands-free option, while others don’t find them as effective.
Sanford Health’s lactation team can help answer questions even before purchasing your pump.
When you’re shopping for a breast pump, Sanford Health Equip can help. Visit the Sanford Health Equip website to learn about what types of pumps they carry, what’s covered by insurance and how they can help you choose a pump.
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