Breast Pumps: The Working Mom's Friend
10 tips for expressing and storing breast milk quickly and easily
Reviewed By Charlotte Grayson
Not anymore. Among today's working moms, breast pumps allow many women to give their baby the benefits of mother's milk even when they can't be together all the time.
Breast pumps are devices designed to help you package Mother Nature by expressing your milk, then storing it in the refrigerator to use for bottle feedings later.
"The benefits of the modern breast pumps are amazing. They work remarkably well and in the case of the double pumps -- which express milk from both breasts simultaneously -- the whole process is very quick and easy. Most important, it is making breastfeeding possible for almost every mother and baby," says Linda Hanna, program coordinator for Lactation and Prenatal Education Services at
For many women, the entire pumping process can be completed within 15 to 20 minutes, depending on the type of breast pump used.
Finding the Right Breast Pump
You can choose from inexpensive hand-operated models that cost as little as $15 to sophisticated electric or battery-powered models that cost $150 or more. Personal taste or finances are the main criteria.
"What works for one woman may not necessarily work for another -- a lot depends on how much milk you need to express and the length of time you plan to keep using the breast pump," says Carol Huotari, manager of the
If you plan to pump for several months and the time you have each day to pump is limited, Huotari suggests checking out full-size professional automatic breast pumps. Although they are large and most are not portable, they get the job done quickly.
Often these can be rented from a local hospital or breastfeeding organization. Since these breast pumps provide stimulation that helps get your milk production going, they're particularly useful if your baby is premature and not able to suckle your breast right away.
The newest electric breast pumps often express both breasts at the same time, and are reportedly quick, quiet, and easy to use. Although they can cost up to $200 or more, they are portable -- a real bonus for moms who must express milk at work.
If you only need to pump once in a while -- for example, if you are going to be away for a day or two -- you can also hand express your milk directly into a container, without using a breast pump at all.
Next: Storing Your Breast Milk.
Storing Your Breast Milk
Although pumping milk is the first step toward providing for your baby, it's only half the task. For many women, the larger challenge is to keep their milk from spoiling before feeding time.
You should try to refrigerate your milk soon after pumping, according to experts at the National Women's
Once refrigerated, breast milk can keep for several days, though it's best to use soon after pumping, says Huotari.
"The sooner your baby gets it, the more you can be assured of the nutrient value," she says.
Experts say working moms should pump and freeze their milk only as a back-up option. Fresh is best.
"When breast milk is frozen you lose about 40% of the protective immune factors," Huotari tells WebMD. "We advise women to pump a day's supply of milk and store it in the refrigerator, to be used the next day for feeding."
Some women, however, cannot pump milk at work. Then, giving your baby frozen breast milk is still better than switching to formula, Huotari says.
"You're providing your baby with 60% more immune protection with frozen breast milk than you are with formula. So if you know you won't be able to pump daily, you can start freezing milk three months before going back to work," she says.
Frozen breast milk will last about two weeks if stored in the freezer door, where it's subject to frequent blasts of warm air. Frozen milk will last up to four months if stored in a separate compartment inside your freezer. If stored in a deep freeze at 0 degrees or less, your milk will keep for up to six months.
10 Tips for Pumping and Storing Breast Milk
Here are 10 tips from the
Published Sept. 29, 2003.
Medically updated May 2005.
SOURCES: Linda M. Hanna, IBCLC, program coordinator, Lactation and Prenatal Education Services,
©1996-2005 WebMD Inc. All rights reserved.
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