What you need to know about breast pumping: the UK vs. US

need to know about breast pumping

As someone who struggled massively with breastfeeding and who exclusively pumped for the first three months of my mum life, I thought that this World Breastfeeding Week it would be appropriate to focus in on breast pumping, and everything you need to know about it.

The World Health Organization recommends that all infants be breastfed within an hour of birth and that breast milk is exclusively given for the first six months of life. Though mothers in both the United States (US) and the United Kingdom (UK) begin with high breastfeeding rates, 77 percent and 71 percent, respectively, these rates drop significantly within the first few months of the baby’s life.

After three months, only 17 percent of mums in the UK are still breastfeeding, and at six months, only 44 percent of US mums continue to breastfeed. This drop, which is more significant in the UK, has been found to be due to societal pressures and inconvenience. Breast pumping can help babies continue to get the nourishing breast milk they need while providing mums both privacy and convenience.

How Breast Pumping Benefits Mums and Babies

Not only does breast milk provide babies the perfect balance of carbohydrates, fat, protein and nutrients, it will also help strengthen your little one’s immune system. This can help prevent your baby from getting sick. Breast pumping can help you provide your little one breast milk in a variety of situations:

  • You are planning on going back to work full-time
  • You want to give other family members and friends the opportunity to feed your baby while you are away
  • Your little one was born prematurely and can’t be nursed while they are in the neonatal intensive care unit (US) or neonatal unit (UK)
  • Your baby can’t latch properly
  • Your nipples are sore or cracked and you want to give them time to heal
  • You want to boost your milk supply
  • Your baby is underweight and your doctor wants you to supplement feedings with a bottle

Different Breast Pumps

There are many different types and styles of breast pumps. The best one for you will depend on your unique situation. Similar breast pumps are available in both the US and the UK

Hospital-grade Pumps

These pumps most closely mimic the way that a baby sucks, which will help provide you the most pumped milk. Hospital-grade pumps are expensive, so it’s best to rent one temporarily while your little one is still in the hospital or you try to increase your milk supply.

Electric Personal Pumps

Electric personal pumps are the best option if you plan on regularly pumping to build up a supply for when you go back to work or want to increase a low milk supply. These pumps are typically available in both single and double options. Double pumps can decrease the amount of time it will take to pump. Special bras are also available for purchase that will allow you to pump hands-free, which will allow you to continue to work or pump while doing other activities.

Manual Breast Pumps

Mums who are planning on only occasionally pumping can use inexpensive manual pumps. Manual pumps are completely silent and allow you to have complete control over how fast you want to pump.

Closed vs. Open Systems

Closed systems ensure that all of the milk that you pump makes it to the collection container. This is because the motor system is completely closed off from the collection components. Open systems can draw some droplets of milk into the motor and tubing. This makes it so some milk gets lost in the system and requires that the tubing is regularly cleaned to prevent bacteria and mold growth or milk contamination.

Breast Pump Insurance Coverage

In the US, the Affordable Care Act requires that almost all insurance companies cover one breast pump per pregnancy at no cost to the mother. In the UK, the National Health Service doesn’t currently offer breast pump coverage.

Breast Pumping Laws

In the US, employers are required to provide a safe place for employees to pump, which is separate from the bathroom. The UK does not require employees to provide such a space. Both the US and the UK have laws that protect mums who are breastfeeding and breast pumping. As long as the mum is legally allowed to be there and is not at risk of being in danger (such as pumping where there are chemicals or radiation), then the mum cannot be stopped from feeding their baby or pumping breast milk.

How to Breast Pump

  1. Prepare by making sure that the flange is the right size for your nipples. The proper flange should pull only your nipple into it when the pump is turned on. If too much of your areola is being drawn in, get a smaller flange. If your nipples are rubbing against the flange, a larger flange may be the best fit for you.
  2. Get comfortable and get everything you need ahead of time so you don’t have to get up once you begin pumping. Make sure you have a snack, a drink of water, a good book or a cell phone to occupy you while you pump.
  3. Pack a picture of your baby, a small piece of their clothing or a cell phone recording of their babble. If you are away from your little one, it can sometimes be difficult for your milk to “let down.” Packing these items and utilizing them when you are pumping away from home can help your milk to let down faster.
  4. Place a warm washcloth on top of your breast and massage it for a few minutes. Place the flange over your nipple and turn the pump on. Most pumping sessions will last 15 to 20 minutes total. Make sure to pump as much as you need to on both sides.
  5. Follow your breast pump instructions for cleaning your pump. Most pumps need to be washed in hot, soapy water and allowed to air dry after use. If you are away from home and unable to properly wash your pump components, rinse them in water until you get home.

After Pumping

In both the US and the UK, the following guidelines are recommended for proper breast milk storage:

  • Store milk in a BPA-free bottle, glass container or breast milk storage bag
  • Freshly-pumped milk can be stored at room temperature for up to six hours
  • Milk can be stored in the refrigerator for up to four days
  • Milk can be stored in the freezer for three to four months
  • Milk can be stored in a deep freezer for up to six months

When it’s time to use the milk you’ve pumped, never warm it in a microwave. Thaw it in the refrigerator or in a bowl of warm water.

No matter where you live, there are a variety of benefits of breast pumping for both you and your little one. Pumping can offer the convenience of a bottle while allowing you the freedom to go back to work or get out for the evening. Selecting the right breast pump can help moms continue to provide breast milk for their little ones for a longer period of time than nursing alone, which will give your little one the strongest beginning in their life.

If you received an insurance-provided pump or if you are looking to upgrade your existing pump, the Chance to Choose trade-up program by Breast Pumps Direct is the easiest way to get a premium pump at a lower price – all while helping a fellow mom in need.

And so now, may the pumping force be with you mamas! And if you’re looking for information on breastfeeding be sure to read this post on 10 things new mums need to know about breastfeeding.

Picture credit: Designed by Freepik

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