There are a multitude of reasons why Mamas choose to pump. Whether it be initial latching issues, tongue or lip tie, forceful let down, twins, sexual abuse or returning to work. I’m here to remind you that a pumping Mama is still a breastfeeding Mama! However you choose to feed your baby is your choice and the right one for you and your family. You are still providing the best nutrients for your baby. You might be pumping to increase your supply or exclusively pumping, either way- pumping takes time and dedication. Way to go, Mama!
It helps to create a few goals!. Ask yourself, why you are wanting to pump and remember your why throughout your journey. How long do you want to provide your baby with your milk? When pumping becomes overwhelming and the dishes pile up, remember your why and your goals. Post them in your pumping station area as a reminder. Always remember the Milky Mama community is here for support so don’t be ashamed to reach out!
The First Days
If you’ve made the decision to exclusively pump from the get go, or you’re separated from your baby after birth, we’ve got some tips for you. Keep in mind your body will make as much milk as it’s told to make. When you empty the milk in your breasts your body is triggered to make more milk. Therefore, the more often you empty your breast (and give them time to replenish) the more milk you will create.
Pump or hand express within the first hour after birth. Do this as soon as possible. You want to follow that up with a pump session. The first few days after birth you produce Colostrum. Colostrum is full of antibodies and you’ll only make a small amount at first, it’s a thick form of milk. But sometimes because it is a bit thicker, the pump doesn’t get it all, so that is why it is important to use hand expression, which is the best way to remove milk in the first few days so you make sure to get all of the colostrum (the extra good stuff!). The pump right after the hand expression helps stimulate the milk production. You can feed this colostrum to baby in a medicine cup or in a spoon if it’s too thick in the bottle.
Getting the Most Milk out of your Pump Session
Once you’ve started pumping for a while, you might start to question if you are making enough milk for your baby. Remember, every woman and every breast is different, so some will produce more milk than others. Most babies need 24-35oz in a 24 hour span. As long as your baby is growing and meeting the required wet and dirty diapers in a 24hr span, you’re doing great! Check with your pediatrician if you have concerns about your baby's growth and development or diaper output. Have no fear though, we do have tips for you if you feel like you need to up your milk supply! You can always set up an appointment with one a lactation specialist if the following tips don’t help you.
It is imperative to your breastfeeding experience that you have the correct flange size. The flange size that is right for you is the one that is most comfortable and produces the most milk output. Having the correct flange size is to your benefit for your comfort and for your milk output. Did you know one of your nipples can be larger than the other? So make sure you measure both nipples! Also, your nipples can change sizes, so if you notice pain or uncomfortability while pumping, measure again and check the sizing of your flange. If you need help figuring out if you’re using the right flange size, our Certified Lactation Consultants have extensive training in lactation and have helped numerous mamas select the properly sized flange. Have them help you by following this link here.
Help with Letdown
Letdown is a conditioned response. This means that your brain and body are conditioned to respond to release or “let down” your milk when stimulated by a certain response, like your baby suckling or the sound or vibration of your pump. Watching videos of your baby can help trigger the letdown response. Looking at pictures or watching videos of your baby will help connect your brain and body. Try not to do work, you need to be as relaxed and comfortable as possible.
Warm compress or hand expressing before starting the machine can also help stimulate the let down response. You can also do breast compressions while you pump as the hand massage will bring warmth and human touch to your breast which helps your brain and body make a connection to help with the letdown.
Tinker with the settings on your pump. You will have different strength or speed settings from the vacuum. Find the setting that is most comfortable to you. Make sure to read the directions that come with your pump. Most likely you will want to set it and find the setting that pulls a little to where you’re uncomfortable, then go back a notch. Some pumps might have a “letdown” button that you can activate more than once in a pump session. You might also want to replace your breast pump parts.
Set a Schedule
The beauty of pumping exclusively is that you set the schedule. Since you are not nursing on demand, you can follow whatever schedule that works best for you and your family. Setting this schedule can even bring some order into life that you didn’t know you were craving! Your schedule will change depending on what stage your baby is in. For example, if you are pumping during the newborn stage, you will still need to follow the 2-3 hour schedule because newborns nurse 8 to 12 times a day on average and you want to follow their needs. Once your supply comes in, pump longer than 10 minutes, but no longer than 20 minutes. You might get a second letdown in, so don’t turn off the pump the second you no longer see milk coming out. Set a timer and spend your time relaxing and looking at pictures or videos of your sweet, sweet baby!
It can also help to track how many times you want to pump in a 24 hour period. You can use an app or create your own spreadsheet. There are some apps you can set to get an alert to remind you to pump or to drink more water and eat your veggies! Tracking your sessions and milk output can also be helpful when you go to your pediatrician visits and they ask how often or how much baby is eating.
The Most Important Tip!!!
Don’t forget to take care of yourself, Mama! You’ve got a ton of support waiting for you to reach out for when you need it! Try to relax, which helps letdown. Drink your water, eat foods you enjoy as well as foods that are healthy. Your body just created a LIFE and now is fueling not only you, but also a whole other human being! YOU ARE AMAZING! Give yourself the fuel you need. Rest, relaxation, and really good food.