Pumping or expressing, whether exclusively or partially, is another way of breastfeeding your baby, ensuring they benefit from breastmilk.
You may wish to partially pump to allow others to feed your baby, for example if you have to leave them for a period, or you may wish/need to exclusively pump rather than nurse.
The page below covers specific information for a pumping mother, but do also read through the guidance on our breastfeeding page about how to know if your baby is hungry, getting enough milk or if things are tough.
What type of pump shall I use?
You do not have to actually have to use a pump to express breastmilk but it is usually a much quicker option.
Hand expression - using your hands to stimulate the flow of breastmilk. This method requires no equipment other than a bottle (or feeding cup) to express into!
Hand pump - a manual hand pump can be a great option for expressing whilst out and about as these are easily portable.
Electric pump - these will need to be plugged in but are usually fast and effective.
What type of bottles shall I use?
There is no evidence that one bottle is better than another. Your baby may make this decision for you, as some babies are very particular about the type of teat.
Basic bottles (without any 'features') are the cheapest and usually the easiest to clean, but may allow your baby to swallow more air as they feed.
For parents concerned about the chemicals used to produce plastic bottles, glass bottles provide an alternative, and are made of toughened and heat-resistant glass. These environmentally friendly alternatives may last longer but they are expensive to start with. Obviously there is a risk of the glass shattering if these heavier bottles are dropped.
Some bottles can be self-sterilised in the microwave. These are more expensive and they are very hot when straight out of the microwave so they do need to be cooled before milk is added. The benefit of these is that you can easily sterilise your bottles anywhere with a microwave (so at other people's houses)
To reduce the amount of air swallowed by babies, you could invest in the more expensive 'anti-colic bottles. These can reduce colic for some babies. These can be a little more fiddly to clean, but they do come with self-sterilise options in some brands.
What type of teats shall I use?
You then need to choose your teat, as these come in various sizes and materials, with different flow rates and possible additional features.
Silicone: usually supplied as standard. More durable but less flexible. Tasteless.
Latex: softer material that feels closer to a nipple so may allow an easier transition between breast and bottle. Less durable - store as per instructions. Can have a strong smell/taste when used for the first time so boil in milk for 5 minutes before use.
Whichever teat you use, check for signs of damage (especially once your baby has teeth). If the teat feels sticky, it may have broken down and need to be replaced. Teats should be replaced every 6-8 weeks regardless of material used.
The smallest bottles that you are likely to use first have a type/size 1 teat, which controls the flow of milk to give a more gentle slow flow, perfect for newborns.
As your baby gets older and more confident with drinking from a bottle, they may want a faster flow of milk and there is less chance of them being overwhelmed by the milk, and so you can move onto the faster flowing teats. If milk is leaking from your baby's mouth, or your baby is spluttering or choking, this may mean the milk is flowing too fast for him.
Once you have chosen your bottles and teats, you will probably need around 6.
Soon after a feed, wash all bottles and teats in warm soapy water, using a bottle brush to scrub all parts. You must then sterilise all bottles your baby uses, but there are 4 different ways to do this:
Boiling - immerse all parts (including your breast pump if necessary too) in a pan of boiling water for 10 minutes. The bottles will remain sterilised for 3 hours in the covered pan. This is the cheapest method of sterilising, but teats may not last as long, with bottles possibly attracting harmless limescale.
Steam sterilising - electric steam sterilisers are quick and convenient, holding up to six bottles and sterilising in 10 minutes; however, they are an expensive investment. These would not be easy to use on the go. Check your model can fit in your pump too.
Cold-water sterilising - add sterilising tablets/fluid to a large container of cold water and immerse all parts (including your breast pump if necessary too) for the time stated, usually between 15-30 minutes. This is an inexpensive and convenient way to sterilise on the go. It can leave a strange taste or smell on the bottles, but this is harmless and shouldn't stop your baby from drinking from them.
Microwave sterilising - Check the simple container fits in your breast pump if necessary, and that your equipment and bottles are microwave safe. Like the self-sterilising bottles, these can be hot to handle, but they are not too expensive. These are usually smaller than steam sterilisers.
A personal perspective
For a personal perspective on what it is like to exclusively pump, check out our blog.