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Pumping, Storing, Washing, Surviving

Pumps and Bottles 101

Pumping is all kinds of crazy. But you'll get into a rhythm, we promise. (You may even start hearing the grating rhythm of your pump in your subconscious. But that's another story.) We asked lactation educator Amanda Cole, owner of NYC breastfeeding store Yummy Mummy, for a pumping primer.

In our recent The Right Pump Makes All The Difference article, Cole shared thoughtful tips on how to choose a pump. As we move along with Breastfeeding Awareness Month, we asked Cole to shed some light on when to introduce bottles, and how to care for the many, many pumping and bottle parts.

“Many lactation consultants recommend waiting three weeks before introducing a bottle to avoid nipple confusion/preference," says Cole. "But ultimately it is up to you, your baby and your feeding needs." Smart choices for easing the transition include the Comotomo for its naturally-shaped nipple and soft silicone bottle; the Mimijumi, which was designed to mimic the shape of the breast; and Munchkin LATCH with its accordian-style nipple and baby-directed release.

Once you're geared up, it's all about keeping things clean. "It is best to wash all pump and bottle parts that have been in contact with breast milk after each use," Cole directs. She recommends washing with hot water and a soap that's free of harsh chemicals, and letting the parts dry thoroughly on a drying rack each time—but says if there's no sink nearby, you can use cleaning wipes or quick clean micro-steam bags.

When it comes to handling and storing pumped breast milk, the CDC offers straightforward guidelines. Bottom line: wash your hands before pumping and handling, store milk in clean containers, and label it with the date it was expressed. Breast milk keeps for 6-8 hours at room temperature, up to 24 hours in an insulated cooler bag, up to 5 days in the back of the refrigerator, and 3-6 months in most standard freezers. Cole suggests storing milk in glass or BPA-free plastic containers, or bags specifically intended for breast milk storage.

Above all, remember that "the idea of pumping, storing, cleaning, and so on, every single day, especially with a newborn, can certainly be daunting to any new mom," says Cole. "But once you get into a routine, it will become second nature." So hang in there. She suggests enlisting help—cleaning is something partners and grandparents are able to do. "Give them a few minutes of special time with the baby," she says, "and then hand over the bottle brush."