I often imagine my readers shaking their heads in disbelief while reading my posts: at the stupidity, strange choices, and oversharing. I have a feeling this is going to be one of those posts. Just know that I tell you these things because I love you guys and I want you to avoid my mistakes.
I don't know if most women have this knowledge passed down to them, if they're born with it, or if they really did their homework prior to giving birth; but, I didn't have a clue what I was doing up until recently. I had read the breast pump instruction manual, so I knew how to pump, BUT I didn't know how to pump effectively or how to store breast millk. One day, after dumping TWELVE bottles of breast milk down the kitchen sink, I decided it was time to google.
In the beginning, I mainly pumped for relief (mistake #1). The twelve bottles that I threw out were one ounce portions, that I had pumped at random and couldn't combine due to their dates (mistake #2).
So, how do you pump effectively? Well....when your milk comes in, your boobs transform into these rock-hard, mini watermelons; naturally, increasing your supply is the last thing on your mind. In order to become the most efficient dairy cow (or breastfeeding goddess, whichever you prefer), you should pump frequently in the early weeks to build up your freezer supply and stimulate production. Your body will adjust supply over time to meet your baby's needs.
Pumping on top of breastfeeding is a little challenging, because you can't skip a feeding to pump. You've got two options: pumping after each feeding and/or pumping first thing in the morning. Pumping after each feeding can become a little tedious, especially for just an ounce of milk; but, it does have its benefits. Completely emptying the breast reduces the risk of clogged milk ducts and helps build supply. Pumping in the morning is extremely effective. When your baby sleeps for long stretches of time (hopefully at night), your boobs become engorged; as a result you can pump 5 ounces, and still have milk left to nurse your baby.
Once you've pumped, you'll need to store your milk in a manner that best suits your needs. First off, know that you can combine milk from different pumping sessions within a 24 hour period. I find it best to freeze your milk in 2 and 4 ounce portions; this is helpful for those making your baby's bottles. There are many containers for storing breast milk: bags, bottles, jars, and even ice cube trays... I've tried the bags and I've tried the bottles; the bags are inexpensive and a great space saver. But, bottles and jars have their advantages too; after researching a bit, it seems as though bottles and jars do a better job protecting the nutrients in breast milk (source). If you scroll towards the bottom of this page, you can see an excellent guide for storing breast milk at different temperatures.
Lastly, I have to plug these micro-steam sterilizing bags one more time! They make cleaning your pump accessories and bottles SO easy!!!
This girl likes herself some breast milk.