The breast pump can be a great ally in the breastfeeding journey of a woman, it can help to overcome certain circumstances or specific complications, helps to maintain deferred breastfeeding (exclusive pumping) in the case of mother-infant separation, when the mother goes back to work or is useful for other reasons. Nevertheless, its use is not necessary in all cases as not all breastfeeding women need to have and use a breast pump and so each case should be assessed individually.
In cases where the use of a breast pump is recommended, it is essential that women receive suitable recommendations for its use since inappropriate use can lead to unnecessary complications that can compromise the health of the mother and the breastfeeding experience.
Recommendations for the use of breast pumps that should be offered to mothers who wish to make use of them are as follows:
- Ensure that the funnel/flange size is correct. In order to do this, measure the base of the nipple (width across) and add 1mm on each side. This should be the diameter of the funnel to be used and depending on the brand used, there will be more or fewer sizes available. Using an inadequate funnel size can cause damage to the nipple and areola, as well as inefficient milk extraction.
- Wash all parts that come in contact with breastmilk thoroughly with soap and water and allow to air dry or dry with paper tissue. It is not necessary to sterilize the breast pump after each use, except in the case of milk for breastmilk donation or if it is the first use of the pump.
- Pumping can become a difficult task for women, both physically and emotionally, and advice on the use of a breast pump should be offered to try to minimize these burdens:
- Frequent and short pumping sessions are more effective than staying at the pump for a long period of time without a break.
- More milk is obtained in a pleasant and relaxed environment, preferably with audio-visual inspiration from the infant (videos or photos) to enhance hormonal secretion.
- It may be useful to cover the collection container to reduce the psychological pressure regarding the amount of breastmilk expressed.
- As for the ideal breast pump, there is not one single type of pump that is suitable for all cases and all women and the different needs and preferences of a woman must be carefully assessed. In general, it is convenient to contemplate brands that offer different funnel sizes, and in the case of electric pumps, make sure that they are not pumps that only perform a vacuum, but also perform an extraction rhythm, as a strong vacuum only can damage the nipple.