When I thought about writing this post, I have to be honest, I kinda dreaded it. Just like I kinda dread the subject. Pumping. Who likes to feel like a milking cow? I know there are exclusive pumpers out there and I mean no offense. As a personal preference I would just much rather breastfeed if given the choice.
So, you may ask, why do I do it? For many women pumping is not necessary. Each woman makes their own choices regarding their breastfeeding experience. For myself it was a necessary step to maintain my somewhat limited milk supply while returning to work. That being said I wanted to share some helpful tips that I have come across along my pumping journey.
First let’s talk flange fit. Ladies, this makes a huge difference when pumping. Both your comfort and amount of milk expressed are greatly influenced by your flange fit. Most pumps come with a standard size 24/25mm, but as we all know, nipples and breasts come in all shapes and sizes. (If you didn’t know that, do a quick google search and you will soon be educated) To ensure the proper fit you need to test out the flange you have and watch your nipple as you begin to pump. You want to make sure the nipple is not rubbing against the side of the flange, you aren’t experiencing discomfort, there is no redness, your nipple isn’t turning white, you don’t have too much areola being pulled into the flange, and you don’t still feel full after pumping. If any of the above occur you probably need to adjust your size. Sizing is based on the measurement of the diameter of the nipple at the base- not including your areola. Each pump should have information about flange sizing. Just know the amount of milk you express can increase greatly with a properly fitting flange and your nipples won’t feel like they have been stuck in a coke bottle all day.
Next I think it’s really important to talk about your pumping environment. As an on the go mom I understand how hard it can be to find time to pump when you are away from baby, let alone a peaceful place to do so. I do most of my pumping in the car with a hand pump, very safe, I know. Some things you can do to make your pumping environment a little more conducive to effective pumping may sound a little cheesy, but they really do work magic on the hormones involved in milk production. Once of the biggest things you should remember is to relax when pumping. Sometimes easier said than done, but stress plays a huge role in milk production so try to visualize your baby, how they nuzzle against you, their little noises, imagine them breastfeeding. Visualization of your baby breastfeeding has been shown to increase oxytocin levels which is a key hormone in milk production. Another thing may not be new to many of you, but nonetheless, having an item that smells like baby can also work wonders on oxytocin levels. Smell is a huge trigger for hormone release so steal one of your little babes blankets and take a whiff before you apply your pump.
Lastly I want to talk a little about the amount of milk you express while pumping and the importance of hands on pumping. With all of the pumping corsets available these days it might be tempting to go totally hands free when you are pumping. I have to strongly discourage this! Though it might be easier, you are doing yourself and your precious pumping time a disservice if you keep your hands off your breasts. Your breasts are full of glandular tissue and gentle breast massage of this tissue while pumping can greatly increase the amount of expressed milk during a session. There is a really great pumping bra on the market that caters to hands on pumping and comes in a one size fits most style you can find it here. (And no, the nurses are not being paid to plug this brand, we just came across it in clinic and online and think it’s great). There is also a great online resource here from Stanford University where they show how to perform hands on pumping. Don’t be put off by the very busty lady doing the demo, or her huge milk supply, just pay attention to her technique. Remember they key to the supply and demand of milk production is emptying your breasts as much as possible during each feeding/pumping session; this technique really helps with that.
Callen, J, & Pinelli, J. (2005). Z. Zukowsky & J. Greenspan (Ed.), A REVIEW of the LITERATURE EXAMINING the BENEFITS and CHALLENGES, INCIDENCE and DURATION, and BARRIERS to BREASTFEEDING in PRETERM INFANTS, 5 (2). 72-88. Advances in Neonatal Care. doi: 10.1016/j.adnc.2004.12.003
Lowdermilk, D, Perry, S., Casion, K., & Rhodes, K. (2012). Maternity and Women’s Health Care. (10thed.). St: Louis, MO: Elsevier Inc.