Pumping is a part of breastfeeding that is often an afterthought. Many parents are prepared to nurse their baby. They spend time and money on breastfeeding classes, lactation consultants, and support groups. Hours are spent on Google looking up proper latch and positioning. A breast pump might be purchased or ordered through insurance but then is set aside until it’s necessary to use.
When the time comes that pumping is needed, it can be a frustrating experience if you don’t know what to expect. Many mamas don’t anticipate that just like breastfeeding, pumping is a learned skill. They are disappointed when they aren’t pumping 8-10 ounces of milk each session or they find it very uncomfortable.
Whether you exclusively pump or would like to build up your freezer stash, pumping shouldn’t be difficult and cause a lot of stress. We know how frustrating it is to be tied down to your pump for 30 minutes and have barely an ounce to show for it, so we put together 5 of our best tips to ensure you're maximizing the outcome of every pumping session.
1. Choose the right pump
Did you know that breast pumps were invented in 1854? They were made of a glass pipe and rubber cup. Luckily for us, today’s pumps have come quite a long way and we have a lot more comfortable options.
Different types of breast pumps:
- Manual pumps
- Battery-powered pumps
- Electric pumps
You can also choose from a single or double pump. These are most commonly battery-powered or electric. Wireless pumps that you insert into your shirt or bra are becoming more popular with working moms who are short on time because they are discreet and hands-free.
It’s best to research your options before purchasing to get an idea of what will be the best for you and your needs. You can also contact your insurance carrier to see what types of breast pumps they cover.
We suggest having a manual pump on hand even if you don’t plan on pumping all of the time. They are usually low-cost and can be a lifesaver if you find yourself needing to express milk on the go or to get some relief from engorgement.
2. Pump first thing in the morning
Prolactin, the hormone that makes breast milk, is highest in the morning hours. That means you are most likely to get the most milk when you first wake up.
Make pumping part of your morning routine when you are getting ready. It can even be part of your self-care by incorporating journaling, drinking a warm cup of coffee or tea, watching your favorite show, or reading a book.
If you are worried about being able to nurse your baby and pump, you can take a sigh of relief. Lactation is based on a supply and demand relationship. Frequent pumping and nursing sessions will actually tell your body to make more milk, not less.
3. Try hands-on pumping
Physical touch is a major player in increasing milk production. When you are nursing, the skin-to-skin contact from you and your baby helps trigger your milk letdown and even to produce more breast milk. The same concept can be used while pumping.
UW Health states that hands-on pumping and breast massage can help to increase milk output by as much as 48%. By massaging the breast before and during pumping, you will help your breasts to drain more efficiently and release the fatty hind milk from the ducts.
As long as it’s not painful, you can massage and pump until you no longer feel lumps in your breast. At the end of your pumping session, your breasts should feel soft and there should no longer be any milk spraying from your nipple.
4. Regularly replace pump parts
One of the first things we suggest to a mom that is having low milk production during pumping is to see if their pump parts are worn out or damaged. This often gets overlooked because mom assumes that little milk means her supply is low. Unless there is noticeable damage to the breast pump, replacing parts might not seem necessary but it can make an incredible difference.
If you are pumping 3 or more times a day, your pump parts such as duck valves and membranes should be replaced every month. Backflow protectors can be replaced every 3 months while flanges and connectors are replaced every 6 months. Tubing is once they no longer connect to the pump correctly or moisture is getting in them from a closed system pump.
Of course, if you see any damage at all, replace the parts right away. Your insurance might cover the replacements, so check with them if you don’t want to purchase on your own.
5. Use the correct size flanges
So many mamas can avoid sore or cracked nipples just by using the right size flanges. Not only will this make pumping more comfortable, but it will also maximize milk output during pumping.
A properly sized flange will not cause your nipples to rub against the sides or pull a lot of the areola (darker part of the breast surrounding the nipple) into the flange during pumping. If you are having trouble determining which flange size is right for you, try using this measuring guide:
Remember, this is the size of your nipple after nursing or pumping. Do not measure your areola or you will get an incorrect flange size.
Successful pumping is much like successful breastfeeding: when armed with the right support and knowledge you WILL do it. There may be times that you feel like giving up. That’s normal! Take a breather and then try the tips above to see if your milk output improves.
If you are still struggling, we’re here to help. Reach out to the Milky Mama team to schedule a virtual consultation or flange sizing. We can even help you to have a more positive pumping experience in the workplace with our Moms At Work program. Let us know how we can support your breastfeeding journey at work here.