Breast milk is the best nutrition that a newborn baby can receive in its initial months; it is the food that the infant needs in building the child’s immune system. And while everyone agrees on this, there are plenty of opinions as well as a ton of misinformation about breast-pumping. Indians are still sceptical about this new phenomenon of breast-pumping and the lack of knowledge can spread misinformation. From unwarranted advice from your bua, chachi and mami to the neighbour who is a self-proclaimed breastfeeding expert, there are several myths floating around that need to be busted. So who should you go to for advice and which breastfeeding and pumping guidelines should you follow?
In conversation with TC46, Lactation Consultant Arushi Agrawal shares vital information about breastfeeding. Here she disproves 8 common misconceptions about breast-pumping for all new moms out there.
Breast Pumping For New Moms
Breast pumps have become a very common and helpful tool for breastfeeding mothers in their day to day lives. Believe it or not, but some mothers have their own set of problems due to which they are not able to breastfeed their babies and they have to choose a breast pump. Most mothers who choose to pump their milk do it temporarily till their babies learn to breastfeed or for the times when they are separated from their baby. But some women choose to pump exclusively for common reasons like breastfeeding did not work for them or they eventually decided that bottle-feed was easier. Whatever the reason may be, there is no right and wrong and every mother has the right to choose whatever is best for her and her baby.
Myth 1: Pumped milk is not as good as milk directly fed
Exclusive pumping is very different from breastfeeding even though both involve lactation. Breastfeeding is child-driven i.e. feeding the baby on demand whereas pumping is mother-driven i.e. it involves consistent routine and schedule as per the babies demand. So exclusive pumping moms can grieve on the loss of breastfeeding relationship but the quality of milk is still far superior to any artificial milk. Breast milk whether directly or indirectly fed is the best nutrition for the baby and is rich in antibodies helping the baby enhance their immunity.
You can minimize the loss of nutrition by making sure that milk is stored according to the guidelines, refrigerated in sterilised glass and stored in BPA free bottles and thawed before feeding your baby. Always remember to never refreeze, reheat or microwave that liquid gold.
Myth 2: Pumping hurts
Pumping never hurts. If there is any pain or discomfort during pumping that’s a sign that you are not doing it the right way. Some sensations do trigger when you start using a breast pump but there is nothing to worry about as you get used to them. Choose the right pump and read the instruction manual properly to avoid any discomfort. If it still hurts, you need to play with the suction strength. And also, keep in mind that the breast shields should be of the right size and centred to your nipples. If the flange size is too small then the nipples will rub against it and because of friction lead to nipple damage and if the flange size is too big then because of loss of suction you will not get the required results. Hence the right flange size as per your breast size is very important for a comfortable pumping experience.
Myth 3: Breast pumps can be shared
Although it might be tempting to share your breast pump with a new mom friend, remember that is not right for either of you. Breast pumps are designed for personal use. Sharing a breast pump exposes you and your baby to the risk of contamination and the pump’s motor also will not perform like new. Only hospital-grade pumps are meant for sharing but the portable pumps are for only personal use. Breastmilk is a living liquid hence it is easily contaminated and causes infection to the baby The hygiene and sterilization of breast pump parts are very important. The CDC’s (Centres for Disease Control and Prevention) new breast pump cleaning guidelines are a must-read for pumping moms.
According to the CDC’s new guidelines, here is how best to care for your pump parts:
- Wash your hands before using your pump, and use disinfectant wipes to clean the outside of your pump.
- After every use, take apart the pump parts and rinse them under running water. Don’t put them directly in the sink!
- Clean your pump parts as soon as possible with hot, soapy water in a washbasin and brush used only for cleaning pump parts, or in the dishwasher.
- Rinse in freshwater (don’t put them back in the same basin).
- Air dry on a clean dish towel but don’t rub the parts with the towel as this could spread germs.
- Rinse your basin and brush, and leave them to air dry. Clean them as well at least every few days.
- If you’re using the dishwasher, place on hot water and heated drying cycle, or a sanitize cycle. Wash your hands before taking out the parts, and allow them to air dry.
- Store items in a clean, protected area only after they’re completely dry.
Myth 4: Using breast pumps will reduce your supply
The most common myth around pumping is that it will negatively affect the milk supply. But the truth is that it can be used as a very handy tool to boost the milk supply. For all the moms whose babies are unable to directly feed on the breast, pumping is an effective way to maintain as well increase their supply. Milk supply works on the principle of demand and supply and the more milk is removed the more milk will be made. So pumping at a regular interval is a great way to boost the milk supply.
Myth 5: You won’t bond with your baby if you’re not nursing
There is no replacement of a mother in a child’s life and whether she breastfeeds or not breastfeeds she is no less of a mother. Breastfeeding is the natural way to bond with your baby but if that’s not your choice then you should bottle-feed just the way you would have breastfed. Holding the baby close to you, having eye contact with them, doing lots of skin to skin contact and changing sides when feeding the baby are some of the effective ways to boost the feel-good hormone oxytocin which will help you to strengthen the bond between you and your baby.
Myth 6: Breast pumps can cause saggy breasts
One of the most common misconceptions about using a breast pump that mothers have is that pumping causes stretch marks and sagging of the breast. The major reason for sagging of the breast is not wearing the right bra size. During pregnancy and post-delivery mothers see a change in their breast size and they need to choose their bra accordingly. Too small of size will affect breasts and can lead to clogged duct and too big size can lead to saggy breasts. Other reasons for saggy breasts is linked to pregnancy, weight loss of more than 20+ kgs and cigarette smoking.
Myth 7: Pumping is very time consuming
The number of times a mother needs to pump varies greatly from mother to mother. There isn’t a set standard minimum below which a supply will dry up. Most women will keep making some milk so long as some milk is being removed. If you started out exclusively pumping from the beginning or the early weeks, it can be useful to pump more frequently at first. A newborn generally nurses at least eight to twelve times in twenty-four hours. One approach is to aim for ten expressions per day, not to fall below eight. The more you can do in the first few weeks, the better. This sets your milk supply high and may give you a freeze to help compensate for any low times later on. Pump whenever you think of it—even for short times—so that you’re not just doing it on a set schedule. Once your supply is stable, at about six weeks, you can experiment a bit to see how many times you need to pump each day to get the amount your baby needs.
Myth 8: The more gap you give between the pumping session the better output you will get
Keep in mind that milk is made most quickly when the breast is least full; the fuller your breasts are, the slower milk is being made. If you let them get too full for too long, milk production will slow down dramatically. After a while, you’ll get a feel for when it’s time to pump-follow your body’s feedback rather than the clock and your supply should be fine
After those first six weeks, whether or not you pump at night depends on how long your breasts will let you go without becoming uncomfortably full and how much you can pump during the day to meet your baby’s needs. It’s a good idea to pump at least once at night during the first six weeks as part of establishing a solid supply.