Pumping and breastfeeding are two different things. The output you get while pumping is not the say as your baby directly feeding on your breasts. However, there are so many mothers who rely on exclusively pumping either because of medical constraints or who had to go back to work leaving their baby with caregivers.
More and more mothers are depending on breast pumping to feed their baby their milk when they are away. I started pumping to build my stash before I headed back to work. Although I didn’t exclusively pump feed my babies, I did pump to stock some milk while I was away.
I know how hard pumping is. It is heartbreaking when you see only a few ounces after slogging your boobs off. Whether you are going back to work or pumping because of medical conditions, I want to encourage you not to be disappointed when your milk supply decreases.
Your milk supply can be affected by so many things – stress, periods, birth control. First off, if you are experiencing a drastic difference in milk production and have been taking any medication, talk to your lactation consultant and doctor about this.
If you are a typically healthy person and have noticed a drop after going back to work or other reasons, I want to share with you some tips that worked for me to maintain and increase my milk supply.
But, before I start with some tried and tested ways that can boost your milk supply, I want to give you some reasons that can negatively interfere with your milk production.Ask yourself these questions I have highlighted below to figure out what might be decreasing your supply.
REASONS FOR LESS MILK SUPPLY (WHILE PUMPING):
1.Are You Using the Right Breast Pump?
You simply can not pump successfully without a good breast pump that suit your needs. If you are exclusively pumping, I highly recommend investing in a quality double electric pump. Talk to your lactation consultant about what breast pump might suit you the best. There are so many breast pump reviews online, check them out too.
I understand that most double electric pumps are expensive, but a breast pump is something where you need to bite the bullet and go for it. If pumping is causing a lot of discomfort, definitely consider getting a good pump.
If you are using an old pump, check to see if all the parts are working as they should. Breast pump valves can lose suction and need to be replaced regularly. Check your motor to see if it works properly, if the motor is not powerful, you may not have a good suction and will get a lower output.
2.Does your Breast Flange Fit You Right?
Once you have the right breast pump, the next task is to determine if you have the right breast shield size. Here is the post I wrote about measuring your nipple diameter and choosing the right breast shield size. Believe it or not, this was something I didn’t know about when I started breastfeeding.
I believed that the standard flange that came with my breast pump should work for me. Most women think so. Not all of us have the same breast size or shape, therefore, it only makes sense to get a shield that will fit you instead trying to squeeze into a standard one.
3.Did You Miss Pumping Sessions?
Missing one pumping once in a blue moon will not bring your supply down instantly. But when you keep missing sessions frequently, it will have an adverse effect on your milk..
It is easy to miss pumping sessions while you are out or busy working. It is possible to lose track of time while you are a stay at home. The longer the time between pumping the lesser the milk supply. Milk output is purely a function of demand and supply. The less you pump out, the less milk produced by your body.
Keep an alarm in your phone to remind you of pumping time. If you know you are going to be out a lot ( and will be missing a pumping schedule session often), maybe invest in a discrete pumping system like freemie cups so you can pump on the go.
4.Do You Notice Any Physical Changes?
Milk supply takes a hit when you are about to enter your menstrual cycle. Pregnancy can be another reason why your milk supply plummets.
5.Are You Stressed Out?
Stress can adversely affect your milk production. Are you stressed out about a new job? a location change? Is there something that is bothering you? Try to relax anytime you sit down to pump. Listening to good music, thinking of positive thoughts are all a good way to relax. Try using the stress ball while you pump.
If you are home, sit down in a comfortable chair, put your legs up and catch up on your favorite movie. Don’t set your eyes on the clock, instead use this time to do something you love.
Tips To Boost Milk Supply (While Pumping):
1.Pump At Night:
Waking up in the night is not an advice that nursing moms wish to here. But if you can even squeeze in a single pumping session before you go to bed that can boost your milk supply.
Why night time you ask? Studies have shown that there is an increased level of Prolactin at night. Prolactin is the hormone that stimulates milk production after child birth. If you can pump at night, you can take advantage of the higher levels of this milk making hormone to stimulate milk supit is a hormone that will build your milk supply.
2.Pump While Nursing:
Do double duty while nursing your baby. No pump is as effective as a nursing baby in emptying. It is also easier for babies to stimulate let downs faster. Use that to your advantage to stimulate milk on the other side using a pump.
You can use a hand pump like HAAKA if you are only interested to catch let-downs. You can also try using an electric breast pump to get even more milk output. When you are pumping while nursing, you are tricking your body to think you are nursing twins and your body work hard to produce milk for two.
Pumping while nursing is no small feat though, it takes some practice balancing a squirmy baby and a pump. A side lying position is a good position to pump and nurse, that way you know your baby is safely lying down. Use a smaller bottle or directly into a milk storage bag so it doesn’t get heavier to hold.
Extending the tie your pup at each breasts will help improve supply. If you normally pup for 15 minutes, take a short break and then pup for another 5 or 10 minutes to fully drain your breasts. Do this on both sides of your breasts even if you are using a single pump.
4.Try Power Pumping:
Power Pumping is the best way to boost milk supply quickly. With power pumping, we pump often to mimic Cluster Feeding’ pattern that happens when babies go through a growth spurt.. Emptying breasts often will signal your body to make more milk.
However, power pumping is a tenacious job and requires more time and commitment. Moms opt to do power pumping boot camp over the weekend where they can eat, rest, nurse and pump.
Please keep in mind that power pumping is never intended to replace your regular pumping or nursing session. This is done over and above your normal pumping/feeding frequency.
5.Have A Baby Item To Look :
When you are away from your baby have something to remind you of your baby. A baby onesie or a picture can help. Meditating and focussing on your baby and having happy thoughts will help your mind and body to relax.
6.Breast Compression/ Hands On Pumping:
Hands-on pumping is a proven method to empty your breasts while pumping and an empty breast is supposed to make more milk.
Here is a video on how to use breast compression while pumping.
If to compress your left breasts, use your right hand, close all the other fingers except your thumb and hold your breasts with your thumb facing up.
Press and squeeze your breasts gently towards your nipple using your thumb.
If you feel any clogged ducts, run your thumb over and drain all the milk in the breast tissue, This will not only help increase milk supply but will also render more fatty milk, as you have pulled all the fat from the breast tissue.
A warm compress using a warm washcloth or a heat-pad will get the milk flowing. This combined with breast compression can quickly empty your breasts. Pumping after a hot shower is also believed to give the same results. However, be cautious to try the shower method if you have low blood pressure.
I tried taking a hot shower just before pumping, and I almost fainted after the pumping session ( too much exhaustion). Some say drinking warm milk before pumping helps, I didn’t find it to increase my milk but it never hurts to try.
9.Eat Lactogenic Food:
Always eat healthy food and try to avoid foods and habits that will negatively impact your milk supply. Some foods are better and are considered to be lactogenic (foods that improve lactation) in nature. Oatmeal is considered one of the best grain to help build milk supply. Include dark leafy vegetables (think Spinach, Kale ad Broccoli), include nuts and dried fruits (Almonds, Cashews, Figs).
You even try some herbs like Fenugreek to improve milk supply naturally. If homemade remedies don’t seem to work, there are lot of lactation cookies, teas and supplements out there that you can try. This herbal tea has raving reviews and is touted to help boost breast milk production.
10.Check Your Fluid Intake :
Carry a bottle of water with you..always. Pumping would make me so thirsty and leave my throats dry. I took my bottle with me even when I went out for groceries.
You can add some fruits to the water to increase the flavor if you find drinking plain water boring. Soups, fresh juice, Smoothies count too.
Let’s Wrap Up:
If you are part time or full time pumping mom, I want to encourage you that you are doing a great job. Give yourself a pat on your back, because you deserve it!
If you are pumping because of a job, a medical condition or any other condition, I want to acknowledge that it is not easy juggling pumping with other tasks and you are doing a great job for your baby. I know it is so hard that you want to give up so many times or wonder even if its worth it. Look at your baby and the love you have for him/her will help you through this hard phase.
If you want to give up on pumping, I want you to know that you shouldn’t feel guilty about it either. There are some best formula options to try too. Don’t feel pressured.
If you want to continue pump, try these tips to boost your supply. If not, talk to your pediatrician, lactation consultant to see what could be the best alternative for you and your baby.