Breastfeeding is a natural process. It provides the baby with all the essential nutrients required for healthy growth. Besides meeting all the nutritional requirements, breastfeeding also helps to build a bond between the mother and the baby.
Gone are the days when mothers used to find alternatives to breastfeeding. Today’s mothers are well aware of the benefits of breast milk and are ready to go that extra mile to feed the baby.
But there are times when you may not be able to feed the baby. If you are on maternity leave, then joining back work can affect your breastfeeding schedule. Similarly, if you have to stay away from the baby for some other reasons, then also you may not be able to feed the baby. There are instances when your health may not allow you to breastfeed the baby.
Pumping breast milk comes as a boon in such situations. It lets you extract the milk and store it safely. Anyone can then feed the baby as and when required.
Common Pumping Mistakes New Mothers Make:
Pumping breast milk is not without challenges. If you do not pump properly, then you may not get the required quantity of milk.
Here are a few of the common pumping mistakes that new mothers make, and how it can be fixed.
1. Using the wrong flange size
The flange is the cup-shaped end of a breast pump that is fitted to the breast. It is the flange that stimulates the breast to produce milk. If the flange is not of the right size, you may not be able to extract the required quantity of breast milk. Using flanges of the wrong size is like fitting in a wrong sized bra. It can cause nipple pain and other discomforts, thus making pumping even harder.
If pumping hurts you, then it is an indication that you have selected the wrong flange size. If the flange is of the right size, then the nipple should be able to easily move in and out of the tunnel without any discomfort or pain.
On the other hand, if a large part of the areola is pulled inside the tunnel, then the flange size is big.
Some moms experience painful problems with ‘Elastic Nipples’. You can tell you have elastic nipples when you see your nipples being pulled into and stretch all the way to the end of the flange. This can really mess with your pumping output as you are not able to fully empty the breasts.
Flanges are available in different sizes from 19mm-36mm. You should measure the diameter of the nipple at the base to check the right size. It is best to measure the nipple after a feed. The flange should be selected based on the size of the nipple.
Ideally, the flange should be 3m – 5mm larger than the diameter of the nipple. This way, you will be able to pump adequate milk without any discomfort.
If you struggle with elastic nipples then I highly recommend you to give silicone flanges a try. Silicone flanges are the best as they are more comfortable. They are quick and easy to clean and 100% noise free. Since they offer the best suction, you can extract the maximum milk without any difficulty.
A few of the silicone breast flanges that recommend are
Maymom: Maymom has pump parts including flanges that are compatible with Spectra S2, Spectra S1, and Spectra 9 plus breast pumps. The flanges are available in different sizes and are safe for babies. They do not contain BPA and can be easily sterilized in boiling water.
Nenesupply: This brand of flanges is also compatible with Spectra S2, Spectra S1, and Spectra 9 plus breast pumps. Flanges of different sizes are available, thus providing you with a wide choice. The flanges can be easily cleaned in boiling water and is 100% safe for the baby.
Pumpin’ Pals: Another popular brand of silicone flanges that work great with a variety of pumps like Medela and Spectra.
2. Going for high suction
Mothers usually tend to go for high suction so that they can extract more milk in a short time. But this can do more harm than good. The high suction can sometimes cause inflammation in the breast, making it even more difficult to pump milk.
A breast pump mimics a baby’s suckling. A baby will start sucking slowly, which stimulates the breast to produce milk. Once the milk starts coming out, the baby’s sucking becomes long and strong. The breast pump should also follow the same pattern.
You should always start from a low setting while pumping. Once you are comfortable using the pump, you can slowly increase the suction. Ideally, a medium suction power would be enough to extract an adequate quantity of milk.
The milk secretion in each person is different. Therefore, you should figure out what best works for you and do accordingly.
3. Pumping for a shorter time
Another major mistake while pumping is to pump for a shorter time. By doing so, you may be able to finish the job fast, but you may not get the required quantity of milk. This can eventually affect milk production.
You should pump for at least 15-20 minutes to get the required quantity of milk if you are using a single electric pump. In the case of a double electric pump, 10-15 minutes of pumping is enough. It is best to pump both the breasts at the same time as the efficiency will be more.
Ideally speaking, you should pump milk until the milk stops flowing and continue pumping for 5 more minutes. This way, you will get adequate milk for a feed.
4. Not following a schedule.
Just like breastfeeding, you should keep a schedule while pumping the milk as well. This way, your body is tuned to producing milk at the right time. If you do not maintain a schedule while pumping, or skip a session, your hormones will trigger the body to produce less milk.
Skipping a pumping session can also lead to clogging of the milk duct. This can eventually lead to mastitis, which makes pumping even more difficult.
Always maintain a schedule while pumping. If you have a newborn and stay away from the baby, make it a point to pump every 2-3 hours. This way, your breast maintains a steady flow of milk. A breastfeeding mom should ideally pump 8-10 times per day if she is entirely dependent on pumping.
But if you are in the process of weaning the baby, then you can consider skipping a session so that your body slowly gets adjusted to producing less milk.
5. Not drinking enough water.
A healthy adult should drink 8-10 glasses of water a day, not to mention when you are feeding. Keeping yourself hydrated not only helps to maintain a steady flow of milk but also keeps you healthy.
If you forget to drink water at regular intervals, you can consider drinking a glass of water after every feed. This way, you can make up for the lost fluid without much delay. If you do not like the taste of plain water, you can even drink fruit juice.
If you are at the office, then it may not be possible to get fruit juice all the time. A water bottle with an infuser comes handy in such a situation. You can mix any type of fruits of your choice and get flavored water. You can also use lactation tea packets in them, and reap the benefits of the lactation boosting herbs to build your supply.
6. Buying cheap breast pumps
Like any other product, cheap breast pumps can do more harm than good. It not only leaves you with less milk but can also cause soreness in the breast.
You should always go for good quality breast pumps from reputed brands. Good quality pumps are available from $70 to $120 depending on whether they are single or double pumps. Hospital-grade pumps will cost even more.
If you cannot afford a good quality one, check with your health insurance provider. Most of the health insurance covers breast pumps, and you should make the best use of it.
A few of the good quality breast pumps we recommend are
Hakka silicone breast pump: These are manual pumps recommended by nurses, and lactation consultants. The pump is made of 100% high quality food grade silicone and is approved by FDA. It is soft and comfortable and safe to use.
Using Haakaa when you are nursing your baby is the easiest way to collect let downs from your other breasts. It is also very compact and will easily fit in your purse while travelling. It doesn’t need any battery or power and can be used any where to relieve breast engorgement. Definitely a must have for all nursing moms.
Medela breast pump: Medela has good quality electric breast pumps that are ideal for daily use. All models in this brand are compact, thus making it easy to carry. The product is BPA free and is safe for babies.
We recommend this pump because of its good suction that lets you get the required quantity of milk in less time.
7. Start pumping without the required supplies.
Sometimes when you are in a hurry, you might start pumping milk without realizing that you do not have the required supplies. This normally happens when you are pumping at the office. Since breastmilk is considered ‘liquid gold’ you should extract and store it with utmost caution.
Always keep the required supplies like a storage bag, battery pack, and charger handy so that you can pump milk as and when required.
We recommend keeping the following supplies handy while pumping breast milk. One of the must have pumping accessory that I love is these hot/cold breast gels. You can use them sold so calm sore nipples and relieve pain or use them hot for faster let down.
Breastmilk storage bag: Sometimes you may need more storage bags than what is provided along with the breast pump. We recommend storage bags from Medela, Lansinoh, and Dr Brown’s.
Milk Catcher: If you pump from one breast at a time then the other breast tends to leak. You can use a silicone breast pump like Haakaa to catch the let down milk. If you want something discrete when you are on the go then I totally recommend getting these reusable milk savers that attaches to your breast and collects the let down milk.
8.Worrying about the output
One of the major worries of most mothers is whether you will get the required quantity of milk after pumping. Since after pumping you can see the quantity extracted you feel that the baby is not getting enough. Sometimes, you even doubt whether you have a low supply of milk.
The first thing is to realise that it will take time for the body to get used to the pumping process. Consistency is the key here. Once you set a schedule and start pumping, then you will observe that the output gradually increases. Worrying about the output will only stress you out, which can affect the milk production. Thus, you should remain calm and do not worry about the output while pumping.
9.Not replacing the pump parts
Sometimes you may not get the required quantity of milk even after pumping for 15-20 minutes. This could be because the pump parts need replacement. Just like any other product, continuous usage can wear off the pump and its parts.
If you have been using the pump without any difficulty and then suddenly the efficiency goes down, then it is an indication that the parts need a replacement. Ideally, you should change the valve membrane very 2 weeks to 2 months, duck valves every 1-3 months, and breast shield every six months. The tube should be checked and replaced occasionally.
10.Not doing breast compression
Breast compression is basically squeezing the breast to extract maximum milk. Through breast compression the milk glands are massaged, which helps in proper let down.
Doing breast compression the right way helps in extracting more milk. For this, hold the breast in a C shape with your thumb on top and index finger at the bottom of the breast. Gently apply pressure while pumping. This helps more milk to flow through.
What Are the Effects of Wrongful Pumping?
Breast engorgement is the swelling of the breast as a result of excess milk. If you do not pump milk at regular intervals, or if the pumping is not done for the right duration, then the breast will get filled up with milk. This will result in breast engorgement.
Less milk supply
Pumping at the right time and for the right duration is an indication to the breast that it needs to produce sufficient quantity of milk. If you skip a session, or do not pump the right quantity of milk, then it is a signal that only less milk is required. The hormones get adjusted accordingly and the milk supply gradually decreases.
Pumping becomes painful
If the flange selected is of a small size, then it can result in the nipple rubbing against the sides of the flange. This will result in sore nipples and eventually cause pain.
Similarly, if you experience breast engorgement as a result of infrequent pumping, then it can make the overall pumping experience painful.
Pumping mistakes can cause a lot of mental stress in you. Firstly, you may not be able to get the right quantity of milk for the baby. Secondly, if you experience pain, then you may not feel like pumping at all. This will stress you out which can affect the overall milk production.
New moms hardly get the support they need while breastfeeding, especially during pumping. Nobody teaches you how to pump the milk the right way. This lack of support can sometimes add to the mental stress.
But the good news is that there are several courses that teach new mom about pumping and help them in their pumping journey.
What Are the Things You Should Consider While Pumping?
Though pumping breast milk is not a hard task, it is a time-consuming job. Sometimes if you’re in a hurry or are stressed out, you may not be able to pump milk efficiently.
Here are a few tips for efficient pumping.
- If you are away from the baby, then looking at the baby’s picture or video helps stimulate your hormones. This makes pumping easier.
- As mentioned earlier, being stressed can affect efficient pumping. You can distract yourself by watching TV, reading a book, or listening to music while pumping. This way, you will feel more relaxed and can complete the pumping without much difficulty.
- Some medicines can affect overall breastmilk production. If you are breastfeeding and need to take any medicine, then let the doctor know about this.
- Whether you are pregnant or breastfeeding, your diet plays a crucial role in your overall health. You should have healthy snacks on hand like lactation cookies and bars that keeps you nourished and full while pumping. You should ideally set your pumping station loaded with healthy snacks so that you can munch on something while pumping.
- You should consider going for hands-free pumping as it saves a lot of time. Hands-free pumping helps you to multitask, and at the same time extract the required quantity of milk for your baby.
Using a breast pump during the initial few weeks after delivery can be avoided as your breast is yet to produce a steady flow of milk. But once the flow is established, you should follow the above tips to ensure that the milk supply remains steady.