There are many reasons to pump breast milk; whether heading back to work or giving yourself the (well-deserved) freedom to go for an outing or plan a date night. Whatever the reason, we’re here to help pump you up to the challenge! Here are five tips to get you started:
Start With a Good Quality Pump
Besides simply filling bottles, using a breast pump best suited for you can also help stabilize your milk supply, relieve the symptoms of engorgement, and even produce enough milk for a backup supply you can freeze. Research shows that women are more successful at completing these tasks — with less irritation and other complications — when their breast pump provides tailored quality and function. Lesser pumps are often clunky, noisy, uncomfortable and can sometimes lead to lasting bodily damage for mom. Considering this is a device you will most likely use multiple times a day, for months or even years, you’ll want to choose a device that is not only comfortable, but efficient.
If you know you’re going to be pumping often, make sure you dress for pumping comfort. There’s sometimes no telling where you may be when duty calls, requiring you to dress the part when away from home. Rest assured, this doesn’t mean you have to lose all sense of style. Investing in chic nursing tops or blouses, with camouflaged openings at the breasts, can simplify the process without compromising your fashion sense or budget. (Pro tip: Patterns and dark colors help disguise leaks, if you ever find yourself in that situation — which you very well may). Maternity makers have even provided a “hands-free” pumping bra, making it a multi-tasker’s dream come true.
Prep Your Space
Average pumping time can vary from 10 to 30 minutes. This is precious time for moms and, if not used most efficiently, can make pumping a tedious chore. Try utilizing this time for activities you otherwise might not have time for: listening to a book, show or podcast. Position a footstool to raise your knees, so that you can rest the collecting bottles on your lap as you lean forward to help prevent milk from dripping on your clothes. Basically, the idea is to have everything you could need (water, snacks, activities) within reach to keep you comfortable and engaged.
Visualization / Relaxation Techniques
Ideally, having your baby to look at and listen to is best, but if that’s not possible, visualization and relaxation techniques will allow your letdown to come faster and more efficiently. Simply remind yourself of your baby. Call the sitter/daycare/nanny and find out what your baby is doing right before you pump. Record and listen to your baby’s cries and coos as you pump. Look at a picture of your baby or bring along one of your baby’s blankets and enjoy your baby’s smell on the fabric. All these things can help hormonally trigger the release of milk from the cells where it is made.
Make a Pumping Routine
Establishing a routine is one of the most effective breast pumping tips as this conditions your milk ejection reflex. As best as you can, plan on pumping in the same place, at the same time, and in the same way every time. Prior to pumping, start by washing your hands and drink a glass of water as a way to “prime the pump.” Massaging your breasts before pumping will help soften the tissue and stimulate your milk flow.
When & How to Pump
You can start with pumping once a day between feedings. Many moms find that they are able to express more milk in the morning as women tend to produce different amounts of milk at different times of day. You can work your way to pump as often as your baby nurses (this will usually be every 2–3 hours). Try pumping more frequently in short sessions as this can be more effective at stimulating the milk supply than pumping longer at each session. Double pumping (expressing milk from both breasts at the same time) cuts your pumping time in half and yields a higher increase of high-energy milk.
Using a breast pump is something that has to be learned. Be patient, even if you are not able to meet your expectations right away. The amount you pump will increase with your continued effort and patience.