How Breast Pumps Work

Using the Right Breast Pump

Before you decide to drop $50 for a manual pump or pay by the month for a rental, you need to figure out which breast pump makes the most sense for your lifestyle. Some moms with fixed incomes might not even consider buying a pump because of the associated costs. However, the Women, Infants and Children program (WIC) offers financial assistance for breast pumps and other related items to qualified women through its Special Supplemental Nutrition Program [source: FDA].

Moms who rely on breast pumps and aren't breastfeeding should plan on pumping eight to 10 times a day. Once a woman is able to pump a full milk supply, 25 to 35 ounces (739 to 1,035 milliliters) per day, she can decrease pumping to about five to seven daily sessions [source: Mohrbacher]. Typical pumping sessions last 10 to 15 minutes per breast.

An easy way of figuring out how many times you'll need to pump at work is to divide the number of hours you're not with your baby by three [source: Mohrbacher]. If you plan on returning to work and will be storing several containers of milk, an electric or battery-powered pump should satisfy your needs. Personal-use, automatic pumps can extract milk faster when you double-pump -- cutting pumping time in half when both breasts are emptied at once. You'll want a private spot with an electrical outlet, so ask your employer about a lactation room, empty office or break room. Though fresh breast milk stays good for six to 10 hours at room temperature (66 to 72 degrees Fahrenheit, 19 to 22 degrees Celsius), you might feel more confident with access to a refrigerator [source: Mohrbacher]. Many experts advocate different storage guidelines and temperatures, so ask your doctor how long he or she recommends freezing or refrigerating milk.

If you're pumping in addition to breastfeeding and only need to express occasionally, manual pumps could be an affordable answer. The same handling and storage rules apply to manually expressed milk -- make sure to label containers with the date and time to avoid spoilage.