The perfect latch. When most people think of breastfeeding, they imagine a mother feeding her baby directly from the breast. However, if you are like me, you may never achieve that latch due to physical barriers (or personal choice), and that is okay. If you are still feeding your child your breast milk, you are still a breastfeeding mother. Exclusively pumping mothers do not always receive the respect that they deserve, and I want to change that. An exclusively pumping mother not only takes on the responsibility of feeding her child her breast milk, but she also takes on the task of preparing milk ahead of feedings, purchasing necessary pumping supplies, storing and thawing the expressed milk, cleaning all of the pumping supplies, and doing it all over again. However, this is an act of love and determination that deserves nothing but love and respect.
The Affordable Care Act and Your Breast Pump Thanks to the Affordable Care Act (ACA), mothers with health insurance are given the opportunity to receive a new breast pump at little to no cost to them. One of the most helpful parts of the ACA is that it requires health plans to cover breastfeeding support and supplies (Medela, 2013). If you have a private insurance carrier or commercial insurer, you are covered under this act (Medela, 2013). These services may be provided before and after birth. However, it is important to first understand how your insurance works and what you will need to get your new pump. Some insurance plans may require pre-authorization upon receiving a breast pump ("Breastfeeding Benefits", n.d.). It is important to speak with your doctor beforehand, so that you may receive a prescription before dealing with your insurance company. Every insurance plan is different, so coverage may vary. Most insurance companies offer a toll-free customer service number that you can call to learn more about what your plan covers. The number is typically found on the back of your insurance card. The insurance representative will be able to explain your insurance coverage for any of the products or services received.
Different Breast Pump Options What is a breast pump? Breast pumps are used to extract milk from the breast by creating a seal around the nipple and applying and releasing suction to the nipple (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2016). There are three different types of pumps: manual pumps, battery-powered pumps, and electric pumps.
Manual Pumps Many manual pumps have a small tube which is pumped in and out of a larger tube, creating a vacuum that expresses milk and collects it in an attached container. Bicycle horn pumps are another manual pump that consist of a hollow rubber ball attached to a breast-shield. However, some experts discourage the use of bicycle horn pumps because they can be tricky to clean and dry (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2016). Battery-Powered and Electric Pumps A powered breast pump uses either batteries or an electrical outlet to power the pump that creates suction to extract milk from the breast. There may be one or more long tubes connecting the breast-shield to the pump. These pumps have a control switch to help with the strength of suction that can be adjusted (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2016). Some powered breast pumps can adjust to different patterns of suction. It is believed that the adjustable suction allows the user to find a setting that will closely mimic her baby nursing. This is an especially important feature when attempting to achieve a let-down. A let-down is the natural reflex that starts the release of milk when the nipple is stimulated (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2016). The goal is to try and mimic the act of direct breastfeeding as best as possible in order to help establish and maintain a milk supply for the feeding child. It is important to keep extra supplies with you, when choosing to pump in case of an emergency such as batteries or a hand-held pump.
Expressing Breast Milk When should I start to pump my breasts? It is important to become comfortable with pumping, especially if you plan on returning to work. It may be useful to try pumping just after your baby eats or between feedings. How much milk will I get when I pump? Every woman is different, so it is best not to compare yourself to others. At first, you may not get very much from pumping, but it is important to keep trying in order to establish a supply and familiarize yourself with this method. After a few days, you should notice an increase in the amount of milk you are able to express. It is very important to stay hydrated, as this too will help with milk production. How long should I pump each time? Pumping should take about as much time as direct feeding would take. However, with the proper pump and practice, many women can pump in as little as ten to fifteen minutes. While at work, try to pump for about 15 minutes every few hours ("Breastfeeding: How to Pump and Store Your Breast Milk", 2017).
Skin-to-Skin Contact It is important to develop a bond between both mother and child. Even if you are not able to get a correct latch with your baby, you can still bond with one another through skin-to-skin contact. Skin-to-skin is when your child is placed belly-down, directly on your chest, preferably with no clothing or blankets in between. Skin-to-skin allows you and your baby time to get to know one another. It is beneficial to keep baby skin-to-skin as much as possible. Compared with babies who are swaddled or kept in a crib, skin-to-skin babies have been noted to stay warmer, calmer, and cry less (Cleveland Clinic, 2016). Skin-to-skin can also be done with other members of the family, and helps to provide a sense of security for the baby.