As I prepare to end my glorious maternity leave I find myself being reminded that pumping can be a dire task. Finding extra time to sit and pump can be difficult. Even more so can be having enough milk in your body after feeding your baby to be able to extract anything more than a few drops. There are lots of things you can do to help boost your pumping efforts and make them more worthwhile. Whether you’re aiming for a one-time dinner away from your little one or building a supply for the freezer. These are the tip and tricks I’ve found along the way the work the best!
Keeping in mind that the age of your baby drastically affects what pumping may look like for you. When your baby is younger, the volume of milk you produce and can store in your breasts is a lot larger. As your baby ages and starts to eat complementary foods, the volume of milk produced for one milk “feeding” is drastically reduced. Your baby no longer needs 8-10oz of breastmilk per feeding. So don’t be discouraged if you used to pump 10oz in 5 minutes when your baby was 2 months old, and when they are 9 months old all you get is 2-4oz. Your body is ever adjusting to what your baby demands and requires.
The time of day you pump also makes an enormous difference. Milk production is at its highest at night and in the early morning. Your pumping efforts will be more successful if you pump first thing or early in the morning versus trying during nap time in the afternoon (sadly which is often when it would be most convenient). That being said:
Here are my handy tips for better pumping
- Get a good pump. Manual pumps are great for throwing in your bag if your out and about and have no access to electricity. I personally prefer an electric pump for ease of use and speed. There are lots of different makes, models and price ranges so do your research. But also never forget hand expression is a great way to remove milk from your breasts! Some women’s bodies are far smarter than any pump and won’t give up the goods for a machine. If your having trouble pumping, try hand expression instead.
- Pump in the morning! As stated before, milk production is at its highest in the morning, so pump an hour or so after your morning feed. Milk levels and production dip in the afternoon and early evening so don’t waste your time pumping then.
- If you don’t have time to add an early morning pumping session, pump while your baby is feeding on the other side! This can become a bit of a circus with an older baby swatting at the pump and pulling at the tubes. But if you can accomplish it you will be in milk pumping city! Your body is being stimulated by an actual real live baby and will therefore release more milk. You’ll also get the added benefit of a natural let down reflex from the baby nursing 9and sometimes multiple let downs), allowing you to collect more milk. Bronwyn found that this worked well for her. She held her baby on one side in a football hold and the pump on the other.
- Prepare your body to make more milk! Drink lots of water and make sure your eating lots of protein. If your still having issues not getting enough milk try natural galactogogues like brewers yeast lactation cookies.
- Prepare your breast to pump by massaging them. Sounds silly right? But massaging your breasts is literally a great way to get the juices (well the milk) flowing. Picture your breast as if it were a bicycle wheel with spokes that all meet at the nipple. Gently massage along the spokes towards the nipple for a few seconds all the way around. This will stimulate the breast and hopefully get your letdown reflex to work faster while pumping.
- Look at a picture of your baby, or even better your actual baby. Hormones are amazing things. Oxytocin, the love hormone, is released when we see our babies. Oxytocin is also needed to help the production of breastmilk but more so helps the let down reflex happen. So load your smartphone up with adorable baby pictures (as if it isn’t already!).
- Keep at it! Pumping can be time consuming and stressful, but once you get a rhythm going it can be easy peasy. Keep working at it and your supply will grow!
Maggie Hilton RN
P.S. Maggie was pumping while editing this post!
Maggie Hilton RN, BScN, is a Registered Nurse with 6 years of experience in Childbirth Nursing and 4 years of experience as a Childbirth Educator in the Kitchener-Waterloo area. Maggie is also part time instructor at Conestoga College where she teaches maternity nursing courses to nurses looking to further their careers in the maternal-child field. She has a great passion for childbirth education, especially in the areas of pain management during labour and breastfeeding. Maggie is the mother of two young children, one of whom was born at home and one of whom was born in hospital. Maggie is currently breastfeeding her youngest child, and breastfed her oldest son past a year of age.