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What To Know About Pumping Milk: The Real Deal

Whether you’re planning to go back to work or you’d like your husband to pitch in with feeding, a breast pump is probably high on your list of must-have baby gear. But before you get one, read on.

Wait until after the baby comes

"When there are no immediate postpartum breastfeeding problems for either you or the baby, there’s usually no reason to pump at all after you first give birth," says Sheela Geraghty, M.D., a pediatrician and lactation consultant who is Medical Director of the Center for Breastfeeding Medicine at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center. If you end up needing to pump in the first few weeks, it’s better to rent a more efficient hospital-grade pump than to use a commercial version. After those first few weeks, your breasts will have established a good milk supply, so you can switch to a store-bought pump if you like. Another tip: Register for a gift card at the baby store instead of a pump. "That way, if you decide you don’t want or need a pump after all, you can spend the money on diapers or other things," says Dr. Geraghty.

Talk to other moms

Electric or manual? Single or double? Dr. Geraghty, herself a mother of triplets, notes that most working moms prefer the double electric breast pump because you can express the most milk in the least amount of time. "I had both an electric and a manual pump, and although I preferred the electric, I found that the manual one was really handy for travel," says Libby Fearnley, a mother of one from Pottstown, Pennsylvania. Some moms find manual ones less user-friendly. "I didn’t like the fact that I needed two hands," notes Jill Alie, a mother of three in Cumming, Georgia. "When I laid my daughter down to pump, she’d wail."

Remember, one size doesn’t fit all

"I wasn’t making enough milk for my little girl after I returned to work," says Liz Litts, a mother of two in Stillwater, New York. "Then I read that sometimes, the wrong cone size can be the problem. I switched to a bigger size and it helped!"If the breast shield that comes with the pump (a medium) feels snug or loose, you’ll need to buy a different size separately online or at a baby store.

Get used to breastfeeding before you pump

"Many new mothers think they need to have a freezer full of milk before they go back to work and so they start pumping immediately after birth," says Dr. Geraghty. "But pumping too soon can thwart your efforts at establishing a good breastfeeding routine—a baby latching on and often is the best way to establish a good milk supply." Even if you’re going back to work in as little as 6 weeks after giving birth, it’s a good idea to wait at least a couple of weeks after birth before you start. Happy pumping!

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