Open a PDF version to print this topic

HealthInfo Canterbury

Breast pump & breast milk storage information

This information sheet explains about breast pumps and expressed milk. If you are having problems breastfeeding and you think you need a breast pump, you should first consult your midwife or a lactation consultant. You can normally see a lactation consultant for free on referral from your midwife or general practice team. Alternatively, you can pay to see a lactation consultant privately.

Reasons for using a breast pump

Woman using a breast pumpMost women do not need to use a breast pump, although many women have been given the mistaken impression that a pump is part of normal breastfeeding. This is mostly as a result of increased marketing of pumps and exposure to this marketing. Sometimes women express milk to reassure themselves that there is enough milk in the breast for their infant. As the pump will never remove as much milk as a breastfeeding infant, mothers may experience unnecessary anxiety when smaller amounts of milk than expected are expressed.

It is not a good idea to use a breast pump without good reason when you are starting breastfeeding, especially in the first six to eight weeks following the birth. This is because it may cause problems with milk supply and breastfeeding.

If you and your baby are going to be separated for any reason, and you are exclusively breastfeeding, you will need to express milk so that you can feed your baby and continue to produce milk. Removal of milk from the breast is crucial to milk supply. In these cases, you can either remove milk using hand expression or a breast pump. For the first two to three days after birth however, it is better to use hand expression, as colostrum is too thick to be extracted with a breast pump. Some women also find that hand expression works well for them as a longer-term strategy when milk removal is necessary outside of breastfeeding times. The following links provide useful information about hand expression:

Breast pumps may also be useful to assist with some short-term breastfeeding challenges. For example when you are having trouble with latching and milk has not been removed effectively from the breast, a pump may assist with increasing the milk supply. The first issue however is always to fix the latch and position of the infant at the breast.

When to use a breast pump

Not every woman will need to use a breast pump, but there are some situations when it can be helpful or necessary:

Types of breast pump

Renting or buying a breast pump

Open-system single-user pumps

These pumps are available for sale at many retail outlets including pharmacies, The Baby Factory, and Baby City.

Also available online at BreastMates.

There are many different breast pumps on the market and many cheap ones that do not work effectively. Ameda Egnell, AVENT, and Medela brands are reliable.

Closed-system heavy-duty pumps

These are available to rent. The costs range from $23 to $45 per week, or you can rent on a monthly basis.

Personal kits need to be purchased on top of the hire charge and prices range from $65 to $85 for a single kit and $75 to $120 for a double kit.

Most rental outlets also require a deposit to be paid, which is refundable on return of the pump. St George's does not charge a deposit but holds credit card details which need to be given at the time of hire.

Some closed-system pumps are also available for purchase from pharmacies or baby item shops.

 

  • Baby City, Tower Junction, Addington, (03) 348-5940. Medela Lactina and Symphony.
  • Baby Factory, Papanui, (03) 354-4032. Medela Symphony.
  • Baby Factory, Hornby, (03) 344-0036. Medela Symphony.
  • BreastMates online shopping. Medela Lactina and Symphony.
  • Durable Medical Equipment, 0800-363-123, rental@dme.co.nz. Ameda Egnell Elite.
  • Life Pharmacy, Northlands, Papanui, (03) 352-7805. Medela Lactina and Symphony.
  • Life Pharmacy, The Palms, Shirley, (03) 385-2725. Medela Lactina.
  • Marcia Annandale Lactation Consultant, (03) 323‑7124 or 021-128-6685. Ameda Egnell Elite (LMC verification required). No deposit or personal kit purchase necessary.
  • Radius Pharmacy, Addington, Tower Junction, (03) 348-5544. Medela Lactina.
  • St George's Hospital Pharmacy, (03) 356-2790. Medela Lactina.
  • Wilsons Barrington Pharmacy, (03) 332-3156. Medela Lactina.

Breast shields

It's important that you get a breast shield that fits properly. A correctly fitting shield will avoid compression of the milk ducts and prevent friction around the nipple area.

To apply a breast shield, centre the nipple carefully in the opening before switching the pump on. During pumping, the nipple should move freely in the shield tunnel and you should see rhythmic movements. Pumping should be comfortable and pain-free.

There are five different sizes of breast shield available from Medela. Ameda Egnell has four different sizes. With some brands, you can get a comfort shield or soft fit shield.

Breast pump myths

The following are some common myths about breast pumps.

Every woman needs a pump to breastfeed successfully

This is not true, but manufacturers give the impression that this is necessary through inappropriate marketing and what is termed "manufactured demand". This style of marketing results in an industry-desired increase in pump sales but may complicate breastfeeding for many women at the same time. In the US, there are three breast pumps sold for every baby born.

Pumping and bottle feeding helps you breastfeed for longer

In some situations, pumping may help a mother to increase her milk supply if pumping is done in addition to breastfeeding. In many situations, pumping can interfere with breastfeeding and not help with extension of breastfeeding duration. This is because pumping, breastfeeding, and bottle-feeding is a massive workload for most women and it can become impractical. Pumping and bottle-feeding may result in a continuation of pumping and bottle-feeding rather than breastfeeding and if a mother wishes to breastfeed this may be frustrating. It is generally a good idea to seek help and support for breastfeeding challenges to avoid a shortened breastfeeding duration.

Pumping is the same as breastfeeding

Pumping does not have the same effects as a breastfeeding infant in regards to milk supply for many women and there are other significant factors associated with actual breastfeeding that are missing. Women who breastfeed will generally not have a period for six months or longer but women who pump will usually ovulate within the first six weeks post-birth.

Babies with teeth cannot be breastfed and breastfeeding should be avoided

Babies with teeth will be unable to bite the breast if the nipple is in the correct place. The majority of babies will never bite the mother's breast and if this happens it usually occurs at the end of the feed when the latch has been partially released and the nipple is further forward in the mouth. There are many ways to deal with this so that it does not occur again. Manufacturers of pumps supply information that makes biting appear to be a major issue and suggest pumping to eliminate the issue. This is another example of misleading marketing.

Supplementary feeds need to be given by a bottle

In situations where a mother's milk supply needs increasing and the baby requires supplemental feeds, a mother can be supported to use a supplementary feeding system so that the baby remains suckling on the breast and receives the supplement via a tube at the same time. This assists with increasing milk supply and is a technique easily learned with some help.

Storing expressed breast milk

Breast milk storage guidelines for well and healthy full term babies at home

Storage conditions

Storage time

Handy hints

In a room (< 26ÂșC)

4 hours

Cover the breast milk and keep in the coolest place possible

Fridge

48 hours

Store milk at the back of the fridge

Frozen

  • Freezer box in fridge
  • Separate fridge/freezer
  • Deep chest freezer

 

  • 2 weeks
  • 3 to 6 months
  • 6 to 12 months

 

Use the frozen breast milk to mix with your baby's food when you introduce this from 6 months

Some plastic feeding bottles are better for a baby's health than others. Avoid any clear, hard, plastic bottles or plastic containers without a number on the bottom of the bottle. Avoid containers with the numbers 3, 6 and 7. BPA‑free bottles are available.

Using stored breast milk

Breast milk can vary in colour and does not look like cow's milk or formula milk. It can be yellowish, bluish, or quite pale and watery looking, and this is normal. Sometimes the fat separates during storage and goes to the top of the milk. Shake the bottle gently before using the milk to mix the fat back in again.

Written by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Updated May 2017.

On the next page: Mastitis information

Page reference: 47123

Review key: HIBRF-24381