Working moms can express breast milk on the job, then bring it home for a caregiver to feed the baby during their next workday. But pumping is also a solution to a host of other issues. It can help relieve engorgement, clear a clogged milk duct, correct an inverted or flat nipple, increase your milk supply by creating a bigger demand, and give mothers of hospitalized babies (such as preemies) a way to give their infants breast milk.
What do I need to get started?
The two main kids of pumps are hand pumps (you move a handle to work the vacuum motion) and electric pumps (a battery or electricity runs the vacuum). Hand pumps are cheaper, more portable, and sometimes more comfortable. But electric pumps can be more efficient, especially if they work both breasts at once. Talk to your doctor or a lactation consultant about your needs, and then ask for recommendations. It's not unreasonable to own one of each kind, if you can afford it.
Does pumping hurt?
It shouldn't. If it does, you can adjust the pump to draw the milk more slowly or with less power. You can also look for pumps with soft shields that fit around your breasts.
What do I do with the milk?
Your pump should come with milk-storage guidelines. In general, pumped milk is good at room temperature for 7 to 10 hours. Put it in the refrigerator and it's safe for several days. Store it in the freezer and it's fine for several months -- just keep in mind that thawed milk should be used within 24 hours.
Sources: American Academy of Pediatrics; La Leche League
All content here, including advice from doctors and other health professionals, should be considered as opinion only. Always seek the direct advice of your own doctor in connection with any questions or issues you may have regarding your own health or the health of others.