Breast Pumps - All You Need To Know
|   Sep 21, 2016
Breast Pumps - All You Need To Know

What is a breast pump?

A breast pump is a mechanical device that extracts milk from the breasts of a lactating woman.

Why would one need to pump their breastmilk?

Women use breast pumps for many reasons. Many women use breast pumps to continue breastfeeding after they return to work. They use the pump to express breast milk, which is later bottle fed to their child by a caregiver. A breast pump may also be used to stimulate lactation for women with a low milk supply or those who have not just given birth. A breast pump may be used to relieve engorgement, a painful condition whereby the breasts are overfull, possibly preventing a proper latch by the infant. Breast pumps may be used to facilitate weaning by women whose babies have died or suddenly refuse to nurse. A mother may also choose to pump exclusively if her baby does not latch properly, is hospitalized after birth, or cannot nurse for physical reasons (such as cleft palate). When infants are unable to suckle, mothers can pump if they wish their babies to be fed with the mothers' own milk.

How many types of breast pumps are available in the market?

Breast pumps may be manual devices powered by hand movements or electrical devices powered by electricity or batteries.

What is the different between a manual vs. electric breast pump?

Manual breast pumps are operated by squeezing or pulling a handle in a repetitive fashion, allowing the user to directly control the pressure and frequency of milk expression. They are small and inexpensive compared to the electric pump.

However, electrical breast pump is operated with electricity or battery - which may again be of hospital grade or personal use pumps. Hospital grade pumps are larger and intended for multiple users. Personal use pumps are smaller and generally intended for one user

How long can breast milk be stored for?

Pumped breast milk can be stored at room temperature (less than 25°C or 77°F) for 6 to 8 hours. Expressed breast milk left at room temperature for more than 6 to 8 hours should be thrown out. It can be kept in the refrigerator (≤ 4°C or 40°F) for 5 days. And if put in the freezer section of a  2 door refrigerator (-18°C or 0°F) for 3-6 months.

When should a lady ideally start using a breast pump?

If your baby is premature or has special needs that doesn’t allow you to nurse him/her from birth, start pumping as soon as you can. If you have multiples, talk to your pediatrician or lactation consultant about pumping to build up your breast-milk supply. Otherwise, many experts recommend avoiding nipple confusion by waiting until after the first two or three weeks.

How will one know which breast pump is right for them?

A simple manual breast pump may be the best option if you only want to express milk for one feed a day or for an occasional break. If you're returning to work full time or you're planning to be away from your baby for more than a few hours a day, an electric pump is a better option.

Many manual breast pumps have accessories? What to look for in them?

Many manual breast pumps come with accessories to make them easier to use.

  • Bottles and teats. Some manual pumps include bottles that you can express your breastmilk straight in to. Having more than one bottle allows you to express and store extra in one sitting.
  • Stand. If you are going to be expressing a lot, and don't want to keep packing and unpacking your pump, then a stand can be useful.
  • Carry bag. This is handy if you need to take your pump to work.
  • Cushion or massage cup. Look out for cushion or massage cups/breast shields that are designed to make pumping more comfortable.

What are the pros and cons of manual breast pumps?

Pros- Manual pumps are small and inexpensive allowing the user to directly control the pressure and frequency of milk expression.

Cons- They require significant effort and can be tiring because the user provides all the power. They also allow for only one breast to be pumped at a time. These pumps may not provide sufficient stimulation and emptying of the breast.

Can a lady express breast milk by hands?

Many women hand express milk to reduce engorgement, prevent let down, and save milk for later use. For some women, hand expression can be a more comfortable alternative to breast pumps. The process can be done anywhere, and without special tools or devices. It has also been shown to help the breasts produce more milk; some women's breasts express milk more easily through skin-to-skin contact than through the use of a plastic pump.


This article has been written by Dr. Somendra Shukla, Pediatrics & Neonatology, W Pratiksha Hospital.

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