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To pump, or not to pump?

To pump, or not to pump?


One of the most common questions asked by new mothers is “should I be using a breast pump? If so, when?” And then there is the question of which pump should you buy?

The first thing you need to know is that in the first 4-6 weeks of your baby’s life, both you and your baby are still establishing and maintaining a feeding pattern. These are arguably the most important weeks of your breastfeeding journey. During this time, your body is particularly attuned to your baby’s needs and is trying to determine your baby’s needs - in order to produce an adequate supply.

So, if you are aiming to exclusively breastfeed, it is best to avoid pumping unnecessarily or introducing bottles of breastmilk or formula (if possible). There are many circumstances of course where mothers are encouraged by their midwives, nurses and obstetricians to use the electric pump in those first few weeks. This may be due to breastfeeding difficulties or additional nutritional requirements. If you need to use a breast pump in the first week or more, your midwife or lactation consultant can recommend which type will be best.

Types of pumps:

Single or double-electric – Powerful electric breast pump that allows you to pump on one or both breasts at the same time. These types of pumps generally produce the greatest output of milk and are recommended if expressing regularly in the first 6 weeks after birth.

Battery operated – Have both single and double-electric options, however often run slower, die quicker and are more suitable for infrequent use or for portable use only.

Manual/hand pump – Lightweight, portable and cheap. You manually control the pump to express, this can produce less milk output however, particularly if used before the milk supply has fully established.

Some points to consider before buying or renting a breast pump:

How often are you going to be pumping?  If you are having to pump daily, or even up to several times a week, a good quality, double electric breast pump will be your best bet. It is also very important to have a powerful and reliable pump in the first 4-6 weeks following birth, while your supply is still establishing.

Lifestyle considerations. You may need a totally hands-free option due to your busy lifestyle, older children to look after, discreet pumping options, the list goes on.

Cost. When considering the cost of breast pumps, keep in mind this is often a 6–12-month commitment, particularly if for frequent use. As is the case with most technology, its often better to spend more in order to receive a good quality, reliable product.

Pumping to increase your supply

If you are using expressing as a tool to increase your milk supply, keep in mind the golden rule – ‘the more you take, the more you make’.

In most cases, this means the more stimulation, the more milk you will produce. If your baby is not attaching well, is premature or unwell, expressing can an integral part in establishing an adequate milk supply in the absence of your baby.

Expressing initially should match a newborn pattern of 8-12 feeds in a 24-hour period. If you plan to express in combination with breastfeeds, expressing within 30-60mins following a breastfeed or during your baby’s longer nap of the day, will tell your body it needs to produce more breastmilk.

Building a breastmilk ‘freezer stash’:

There is usually no urgent need/requirement to build a big freezer stash of breastmilk. (unless you are returning to work reasonably early, or you need to be separated from your newborn regularly)

Many mothers find that if they do store large amounts of breastmilk away that it often ends up expiring before they can use it to feed to their baby. Particularly if they are exclusively breastfeeding!

So, if you plan to pump for the occasional bottle when needed, you can often add in the odd express between morning breastfeeds as this is usually when the supply is most plentiful!

Written by Keryn Thompson, RM & IBCLC (L-301766)



Becker, G., 2021. Measuring Mothers’ Viewpoints of Breast Pump Usage. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 18(8), p.3883.

Chen, P., Johnson, L. and Rosenthal, M., 2011. Sources of Education About Breastfeeding and Breast Pump Use: What Effect do they Have on Breastfeeding Duration? An Analysis of the Infant Feeding Practices Survey II. Maternal and Child Health Journal, 16(7), pp.1421-1430.

Kent, J., Ramsay, D., Doherty, D., Larsson, M. and Hartmann, P., 2003. Response of Breasts to Different Stimulation Patterns of an Electric Breast Pump. Journal of Human Lactation, 19(2), pp.179-186.

Kim, J., Shin, J. and Donovan, S., 2018. Effectiveness of Workplace Lactation Interventions on Breastfeeding Outcomes in the United States: An Updated Systematic Review. Journal of Human Lactation, 35(1), pp.100-113.

Meier, P., Patel, A., Hoban, R. and Engstrom, J., 2016. Which breast pump for which mother: an evidence-based approach to individualizing breast pump technology. Journal of Perinatology, 36(7), pp.493-499.

Meier, P., Patel, A., Hoban, R. and Engstrom, J., 2016. Which breast pump for which mother: an evidence-based approach to individualizing breast pump technology. Journal of Perinatology, 36(7), pp.493-499.

Mitoulas, L., Lai, C., Gurrin, L., Larsson, M. and Hartmann, P., 2002. Efficacy of Breast Milk Expression Using an Electric Breast Pump. Journal of Human Lactation, 18(4), pp.344-352.

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