breast pump

In my work as a breastfeeding counsellor, I am often asked about breast pumps. Here are my thoughts!

A breast pump can be a nursing mother’s best friend in her breastfeeding journey. It allows moms to continue breastfeeding even if they are away from their baby and helps mothers with premature infants initiate and sustain a healthy milk supply to provide their little ones with their life-saving milk. Whether you choose a manual breast pump or an electric model, there are a few basics to properly using and making the most out of your breast pump.

breast pump

Credit: Mike Prince

1. Assess Your Needs.

It is important to assess your needs when it comes to choosing a pump. Will you be using it daily? Bringing it to work? Will you be pumping occasionally for a night out? Knowing your personal needs and unique circumstances will help you choose the best pump for you. If you would only be pumping on rare occasions then you may be better off buying a good quality manual pump rather than investing in expensive hospital grade units. Likewise if you would be exclusively pumping, then it would make sense to invest in a top of the line pump.

2. Choose Wisely.

There is a dizzying array of breast pumps in the market today. After assessing your needs, read up and do your research on product reviews to help you make a decision. There are sellers who offer the use of trial pumps, check your local listing if this service is available in your area. Look into available parts and accessories in case you need them. Whatever pump you choose, ask if there are different sized flanges available. Using the wrong sized flange for your nipple size may injure your breasts and make pumping uncomfortable.

3. Read The Product Instructions.

After purchasing your pump, please do read the product instructions first before using. Especially for electric pumps and battery operated pumps, there may be a few preparatory steps to do, like initial charging, before you can start using them. The milk collection kits would also need a good and thorough washing and boiling to disinfect them before first use.

4. Find Your Spot.

After reading your product instruction manual and familiarizing yourself with how to operate your pump, find a comfortable spot where you can set up your pumping station. Choose a place where you can relax and keep distractions to a minimum. A stress free environment helps you achieve let down faster and helps increase the amount of breast milk you are able to express.

5. Relax and Pump Away.

The best tip for successful pumping is to relax and trust that your body is able to provide for baby’s needs. It helps to listen to music, read a book, catch up on social media or put your feet up and rest from your chores. Many pumping mothers, especially those at work or away from home find that looking at a picture of their baby or watching their videos or smelling one of baby’s used shirts triggers faster let down and increases the amount of milk they are able to pump.

6. Clean Up and Store.

After you pump, make sure you clean up your pump parts and flanges and to store your expressed milk appropriately especially if you will be traveling home from work with the milk. It is important to keep your pump clean to avoid contamination of your milk and also to ensure it stays in good working condition.


Knowing how to use your breast pump properly will go a long way towards keeping a healthy milk supply and helping you sustain extended breastfeeding.

Perhaps one of the most difficult parts of being a first time parent, is having to listen to enduring myths and ingrained beliefs of well-meaning friends, family and loved ones. Our in-laws, our mother, our grandmother, our best friend’s mom, our elderly neighbor, all have their two cents worth on what they believe we should be doing in our parenting journey. Breastfeeding could top the list of having the most number of misconceptions and beliefs that often derail a first time mom’s commitment to exclusively breastfeed.

After the popularity of my last post, about everything you wanted to know about breastfeeding but were too scared to ask, I thought I’d like to share some myths on breastfeeding that really need to be corrected.

Credit: Jason Carter

Credit: Jason Carter

Stress turns breast milk sour

My grandmother, bless her heart, always kept reminding me, always be in a good mood, don’t stress, relax, otherwise you can’t breastfeed, makes your milk turn sour. As much as I love my grandma, breast milk DOES NOT turn sour no matter how stressed you are. Breastfeeding actually relaxes a mother by releasing the hormone prolactin, also known as the “mothering” hormone, instantly and naturally inducing a feeling of calm and relaxation in a mother. And one other thing, breast milk doesn’t spoil in your breasts. You may feel engorged and get rock hard bossoms but no, your milk won’t turn sour.

You can’t breastfeed if you’re sick

Many mothers worry that breastfeeding their little one while they are sick would also make baby sick. Not true. If mom is sick, then all the more they should breastfeed. Breast milk actually protects our baby from illness by providing much need antibodies specific to your illness. Not breastfeeding baby while sick actually makes baby more prone to catching your bug. While it is not an absolute guarantee that bay won’t get sick, continuing to breastfeed during a bout with the flu actually provides baby with the much needed protection from your illness. He may feel down and unwell for a day or two, but compare that to not breastfeeding at all and having to endure baby’s restlessness for a week.

Breastfeeding is only for the rich (or the poor)

Breastfeeding is the great equalizer. You only need one boob and one baby to provide the perfect food genetically and perfectly designed to provide for your infant’s unique needs. No matter what your social or financial status in life may be, breast milk is the only need all mothers are able to provide with no prejudice to how much they can afford financially. It’s free, for heaven’s sakes, IT’S FREE!

Breastfeeding is painful, deal with it

Many people think breastfeeding is a sacrifice one makes for the sake of the little one, that it is painful and difficult. Breastfeeding is a physiologically designed gift that should not hurt at all. If breastfeeding hurts then you are doing it wrong. Breastfeeding may be uncomfortable at first but by no means should it cause you pain. If it hurts then something is wrong. Get help from a breastfeeding peer counselor or a lactation consultant.

No matter how much we love our well meaning parents, in-laws and friends, breastfeeding is a gift that we can successfully enjoy when armed with the right information. Think of it this way, whenever you hear a derogatory remark that makes you feel you’re doing it all wrong, there’s always Google and Facebook and blogs to remind you that you’re on the right track.

Here are even more myths about breastfeeding!

Even after doing all your research, reading all those parenting and breastfeeding blogs, reading all the latest lactation studies, there will always be those lingering questions in every new mom’s head about breastfeeding — especially those questions that can be embarrassing to ask or seem too absurd, selfish or vain to be a valid question. For this post, I’d like to share some of the questions and the answers I’ve learned about breastfeeding (through personal experience and / or obsessive research and blog-trolling), that you may be too ashamed or afraid to ask:


1. I’d really like to get my hair colored / highlighted / permed /rebonded / treated, etc. but I’m breastfeeding! Is that ok?

Yes it is okay to get your hair done even while breastfeeding. While many discourage chemical hair treatments or applications for breastfeeding mothers, studies have shown that even if these chemicals gets passed on to your baby through your breast milk, they are in quantities too negligible to have any effect on your little one. Go ahead and get that perm. Just make sure of course you aren’t actually breastfeeding while you get your hair done.

2. I really want to enjoy a glass of wine (or bottle of beer) at my friend’s party, but I’m breastfeeding, is that ok?

Go ahead and unwind with that glass of wine (or bottle of beer, or shot of vodka for that matter). The point is to unwind and relax (but not get drunk) and it is okay to take alcohol in moderation even when breastfeeding. Studies have shown that the trace amount of alcohol that gets passed on to baby are also in negligible quantities. To be on the extra safe side, nurse baby before you go out to have a drink (or have pre-expressed milk in the fridge for him), or wait for 2-3 hours after your drink before latching again. Again, moderation is key.

3. Breastfeeding will cause my breasts to sag! Is that true?

No, breastfeeding does NOT cause your breasts to sag. Stretching which happens during pregnancy may contribute to sagging breasts post partum, whether you breastfeed or not. Other factors like smoking, aging and genetics also play a role in sagging breasts. So unless you have really good genes and wear really good bras all the time, you’re breasts will sag eventually, WHETHER YOU BREASTFEED OR NOT. Such is the law of gravity.

4. My nipples are inverted, can I breastfeed?

Yes you can breastfeed with flat or even inverted nipples. A baby’s latch is enough to pull-out inverted nipples. In the first days though, while you and baby are still learning how to nurse, it could help to use nipple shells or even a big cut-off syringe to “pull-out” the nipple in preparation for latch. But based on experience, flat or inverted nipples usually pop out on their own as you and baby both get your breastfeeding rhythm and routine down pat.

Here are some other myths of breastfeeding.

As absurd or as vain as some of these questions may seem, they are valid questions that deserve informed and reliable answers. After all, the less doubts and insecurities a new mother has, the more she is able to be for her new baby.

Read why I love breastfeeding.

The first time I became a mother, the very thought of even leaving the house petrified me. My sleep-deprived paranoid brain kept up a constant barrage of scenarios from having to breastfeed in public to the germs floating around in open spaces to having to lug around all our baby paraphernalia. Any sort of traveling with baby was out of the question. And then, as the first weeks of my “baby moon” phase waned and I slowly began to long for a glimpse of the world beyond our bedroom door, it dawned on me that both baby and I could use the fresh air and the stimulation of the outside world. Let me say the first time seemed like it was a disaster, but in hindsight it has become a funny anecdote in my parenting journey. And as I slowly gained my confidence in my mothering ability, I learned my lessons as I went along and can now confidently say that I look forward to adventures out with the little one. With a few tricks up my sleeve, allow me to share my list on essential items to take when traveling with babies.

It's crazy the amount of items a baby needs

It’s crazy the amount of items a baby needs

The essentials

No matter where it is your going, to the grocery or the mall or to the other side of the world, I strongly suggest the first thing you think about is how to carry baby around. Number one essential in my book is a stroller. This contraption serves multiple purposes from the obvious one of having somewhere to put baby in, to doubling as a mobile carrier for all other essentials, to having something to lean on when your back needs a moment of relief. If you’re the type who gets intimidated by contraptions then you may opt for ring slings or baby wraps or a pouch.

The point I’m driving at is have something with you that allows you moments of being hands-free. Once you’ve got this covered, then the obvious list follows: your baby bag and everything in it – diapers and extra clothes (enough to cover your trip), baby wipes, hand sanitizers, diaper cream, bug spray, enough formula and bottles (if you choose the formula route) baby food and water (if baby is already eating). If your trip involves sleeping away from the familiarity of home, take along a travel crib or your baby’s favorite sleeping mat or blanket to help give baby a sense of comfort in a strange environment.

Stuff that could help

Once you’ve got the basics covered, think of things that could come in handy for your trip. Any gadget or accessory that makes baby more comfortable and potentially help keep your stress levels to a minimum counts. I once brought along a portable fan to a picnic; I highly recommend that if you’re going for an outdoor excursion. Depending on your itinerary, plan ahead, I’m pretty sure there’s a gadget or gizmo that would come in handy.

In case of emergency

A basic first aid kit, baby’s medication if there are any, and your health care provider’s number on hand ensures you’re ready for every possible complication.

Any trip with baby is an adventure. With a little planning and wise preparation, yes, it is possible to enjoy time with your bundle of joy away from the comforts of home.


One of the best things I love about being a parent is the fact that I have someone in my life that I can love unconditionally and who will love me the same way. I love the fact that my child looks to me to keep him safe, provide guidance that he needs to be a responsible person, and to hear him when he is troubled about life.

Another great thing about being a parent is that I learn lessons about myself through child rearing. For example, I learned that I will need to remain humble when parenting because I don’t know everything and sometimes I need help in steering my child in the right direction.


Worst Things About Being A Parent

One of the worst things about being a parent is the many dangers that my child faces these days and I sometimes fear that I cannot always protect him from those dangers which include sexual predators, bullies in school or even environmental dangers. Another bad thing about parenthood is when my child becomes rebellious to the point of being disrespectful and I struggle with finding the best way to discipline them without abusing them.

A Less Superficial Life

Before I became a parent, I lived only for myself and in fact I told myself that I could never be a parent because I generally did not have patience with children in general or with younger siblings as a teenager. However, I now know that the best blessings in life are not just about fulfilling my own dreams, but about giving of myself to others, especially my children. They make life worthwhile.

More Humor in The Home

Kids do so many fun things and one of the best things about parenthood is that I can laugh all the time. Just the other day my daughter put on a homemade fairy outfit that my dad helped her make and she did a series of comedy routines in her outfit. On another day my daughter took it upon herself to comb her hair and while it looked odd, I loved the fact that she tried.

Judgmental Comments From Others

Throughout my life as a parent some of the worst experiences were in situations in which my in-laws, my parents or even best friends made all kinds of judgmental comments towards me, and they tend to be critical of how I raise the children. At one point I had to let them know that while I appreciate their efforts, I know what is best for my children.


There are benefits and downsides in parenting, but I wouldn’t trade this for anything because as a parent, I’m developing my character and I now know the importance of selflessness and gratitude. When I am with my children I develop a sense of renewed purpose everyday and they keep me energized. Finally, parenthood brings me a lot of joy and I want to do everything I can to be there for them.

come from the heart

I still struggle to understand modern society’s need for labels and the consequent stereotypes we attach to them. We label people who only eat vegetables “vegetarians” and tend to assume they are all animal rights activists out to guilt-trip us meat eating, “environmentally insensitive” carnivores. And even within this elite group of “vegetarians” we have sub-groups like ovo-vegetarians, vegans, lacto-vegetarians, and so on, each with their corresponding image to live up to. Perhaps because it is human nature to want to “belong” that we do this, but it has really bothered me a lot that this labeling has even extended to the way we parent our children. We have come up with parenting labels like attachment parents, natural parents, continuum parents, dragon mothers, earthy mamas, etc. In the midst of all this, shall we say, “name calling”, we have inadvertently managed to alienate mothers who don’t fit our descriptions for each so-called “parenting type”. With all these labels we see online “mommy wars”, we read blogs on all sorts of parenting, and we read the ensuing debate on their comment boxes. I practice what we have labeled “attachment parenting”, and I actually advocate for its practices, but then I have nothing against parents who don’t co-sleep or baby wear or breastfeed, and I seriously don’t agree we can call them detached parents.

Attachment parenting calls for listening and responding to your child’s needs, to nurture them and be present for them and respect them and love them. But isn’t that what every parent should do? So why do we need the term attachment parenting? Can’t we just call it parenting? After all, aren’t these what parenting should be all about?

come from the heart

Parenting while I work

I find it sad really that we have become so caught up in trying to live-up to so called “ideal” standards that we sometimes forget that at the end of the day, we all do our best to be the best parents we can possibly be. Not all so-called “practices” of AP work for all families. Just because you don’t co-sleep, doesn’t automatically mean you don’t love your children any less. Just because you don’t breastfeed, it doesn’t make you any less a mother. If attachment parenting is all about raising emotionally secure and socially responsible human beings, then I say that is parenting. No need for qualifying adjectives that may discriminate or inadvertently pass judgment on others. Labels and so called styles help to distinguish particular techniques that may help us in our parenting journey, but they are in no way definitive of who we are as parents.

It has been said that it takes a village to raise a child, now if only our global community could decide on truly coming together in support of parenting, without passing judgment on how each family is raised, without discriminating attachment from continuum or natural, we could be a better world for it. If the goal of parenting is to raise the next generation of human beings to be better persons than who we are now, we can look forward to a truly brighter future for mankind. Attachment parenting is parenting, in every sense of the word. And so is natural parenting, continuum parenting, social parenting and so is whatever other label we have attached to parenting. Perhaps the question we should all consider as parents is not on what parenting style we employ but rather how do we use all the studies, techniques, practices and philosophies of each movement to become the best parents we can possibly be for our own children.

baby girl

This is a guest post by my friend, Amy, who recently had a baby girl about the struggles of adapting to a new baby in the house

I just had a baby girl and I’m going to talk about my life as a brand new mother. One thing I’m trying to adapt to is numerous sleepless nights because the baby wakes up mostly during overnight hours and either my husband and I will get up and hold and feed her. By the time the morning arrives, I’m so sleepy that I can barely get up. If that’s not difficult enough, my two older sons continue to beg for their favorite breakfast of oatmeal, sugar and berries but I have to tend to the baby and change her diaper. Meanwhile, my husband is engrossed in his home office, but he does help as much as he can before starting his assignments for the day.

baby girl

She’s cute but a lot of work!

Romance Is Slipping Away

My husband and I used to have quite a few date nights and we would drop our two sons off at my in-laws’ house, but now that the baby is here, there isn’t a lot of time for romance. This doesn’t mean that the romance has completely left us, but we had to cut back on our alone time. My husband decided to put in more work hours so that I can remain home with the children and I’m grateful to him for making the sacrifice. I just wish we had more time alone as a couple.

My Emotions Are Bouncing Around

I won’t say that I’m depressed and in fact I’m overwhelmed with joy about my baby girl. However, I think about the ups and downs that await me as I raise her in the next 17 or 18 years. The challenges for girls today are different from the ones I faced as a girl and I’m sometimes scared of what could happen to her as she enters school and society at large. I just want the best for her and I hope that I will be the best parent to her.

I Can’t Hang Out With Friends As Much

Since I’ve been spending a lot of time with the baby and my other children, my friends do not see me as much as they used to before the baby arrived. I also noticed that some of my friends have pulled away from me assuming that I don’t want to maintain the friendship but this is not true. I try to call my friends at least once or twice a week to let them know how my life is going and to inquire about them.

Physical Changes

I sometimes struggle with confidence in my appearance since I gained weight during the pregnancy. My husband loves me for the person I am on the inside and he has no trouble with the way I look but I criticize myself at times. I put myself on a reasonable diet which includes fish, chicken, turkey, fruits and vegetables. I’ve been also drinking more water and natural fruit juices.

I’m experiencing different changes following the baby’s birth, but with help from others and determination, I believe it will all turn out great.

So we all know that breast milk is best for babies. What many don’t know is that breastfeeding is also best for mommies. So this time I’m sharing the 10 reasons why I love breastfeeding from a mother’s point of view.

1. It’s a no-brainer. If you’re a “lazy” mom like I am, who hates having to wash all those bottles and trying to read mixing instructions and trying to figure out what a scoop of formula exactly is, then breastfeeding is a sanity saver. All you need is one boob and one baby and you’re good to go!

2. Instant quiet time. I have to confess there are times I’m too exhausted to get up in the wee hours of the morning to change a nappy. I buy myself instant quiet time by simply popping out a boob, giving me a few precious minutes to snap out from dreamland before I have to get up and be able to change the nappy. This works for almost any screaming situation and most meltdowns too. Latch baby on for a few minutes, chances are he will instantly calm down enough to allow you to figure out exactly what he needs.

3. No need to break a sweat. Breastfeeding burns an average of 500 calories a day. That’s like swimming or running for an hour. So even without getting on a treadmill, you still lose a lot of your post-partum weight. Consider breastfeeding your sweat-free workout.

4. Breast milk is an all-in-one balm. I’ve used breast milk on insect bites, rashes and even minor scrapes and scratches, and not just on baby, but on everyone in my household, hubby’s zits included. It also works as an all natural moisturizer. I once had a cup of expressed milk my toddler didn’t want to drink, I used it for a DIY foot soak. Did wonders for my cracked heel.

5. Free anti-oxidant. Breastfeeding cuts a mother and female infant’s risks of breast and ovarian cancer. Breastfed babies also have lower risks for leukemia and lymphoma. We have a strong history of cancer in my family. For this reason alone, I’d like to breastfeed forever.

6. More freedom to go wherever. Since I’m one of those moms who really don’t care what you think when you see me breastfeeding, I have the freedom to go wherever. Like I’ve said, all you need is one boob and one baby and you’re good to go. No need for bottles and formula and water, you get to up and go at a moment’s notice.

7. It’s FREE. Only about 1% of women are physiologically unable to breastfeed. So I really don’t get why many don’t take advantage of the huge savings you get from breastfeeding. The money you save from having to buy formula and bottles and teats could very well go to your baby’s college fund, or if you’ve got that covered, then go buy yourself a pretty dress or new makeup with the extra cash.

8. Less stress about baby’s health. Let’s admit that as parents, our baby’s health is an ever present concern. Breastfeeding however, cuts the risks of your baby getting sick. Studies have proven that breastfed babies don’t get sick as much as their formula fed counterparts. I’ve once rushed my feverish baby to the emergency room only to have the doctors send me home with a prescription that said “continue breastfeeding on demand”.

9. Stress buster. Breastfeeding releases the hormone prolactin, also called the “mothering hormone” because it physiologically induces a mother’s instinct to “mother” her child. Prolactin naturally puts a nursing mother in a state of relaxation and calm while breastfeeding. I have to say, despite a long exhausting day at work, I always look forward to nursing my little one, if only for the tension-releasing effect it has on me.

10. Emotional bonding and development. Breastfeeding is a life-affirming act of love. It is your baby’s source of nourishment and comfort. It is what I believe to be the first most powerful act of affirmation of a mother’s love that your baby understands.

If you want some more reasons – here are 101!

Breastfeeding is a mother’s privilege. It is a woman’s exclusive gift. There is only a short window of time when we are able to do this. I say let us embrace this gift, and revel in every moment we are privileged enough to do it.