BREAST PUMPING IS NOTHING LIKE BREASTFEEDING.
You’d think someone would have invented a technology to make it a bit more similar (and hey, Willow Pump is working on it). But for now, whether you’re exclusively pumping, temporarily pumping for your baby in the NICU, or returning to work, we’ve got some valuable tips to help you maximize the amount of milk you pump.
THINK ABOUT YOUR BABY.
For most women, thinking about their baby causes an oxytocin release that may stimulate a more effective milk let down reflex. Looking at a picture or watching a video also may help. If you’re the modest type, pump in an ultra-private place (if it’s available), dim the lights, take some slow, deep breaths, and even put on some quiet music.
Women pump 48% more milk when they use their hands in addition to their pump to express milk–and the milk contains twice the fat as that of women who did not utilize hands-on pumping. You can watch a video of hands-on pumping here, but for a quick summary:
- Massage both breasts.
- Double pump, continuing to massage while pumping.
- After milk output slows to a trickle, massage your breasts again.
- Either single pump while massage or hand express your milk (whichever yields more output) into the flange or bottle.
Drained breasts tell the body to make more milk, so this technique is great for maintaining or increasing milk supply.
KEEP YOUR PUMP AND PARTS IN TIP-TOP SHAPE
Use the right kind of pump for the amount of pumping you do. A double electric pump or a hospital grade pump are the appropriate choices for women who are exclusively pumping (either indefinitely or temporarily) or women who work full time.
Replace pump parts every 3-6 months.
Make sure your pump flange fits properly.
REMEMBER SUPPLY & DEMAND
For most women, your breasts will make the amount of milk you tell them to. Thus, the frequency and duration of your pumping sessions will impact your output. Shoot for 15-20 minutes of pumping every 3-4 hours, but remember that breast storage capacity influences the frequency of pumping required to maintain supply and adjust accordingly.
CONSIDER ADDING A LATE EVENING OR MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT PUMP
Pumping during your baby’s longest stretch of sleep–whenever that is–might help you to maximize output. For most babies, the longest stretch of sleep is at night, which means that extra stimulation of your breasts during that time also benefits from the natural increase in prolactin (milk making hormone) levels that occur at night.
Maura Winkler, owner of Chicago Birth & Baby, is a labor & postpartum doula, RN, and IBCLC.