The thought of pumping milk from my boobs has always been the one thing about breastfeeding that has held me up. But, I’ve done it religiously every day that I have required it of myself.
I say “required it of myself” because I’ve looked at pumping as a job – one that must be done or my daughter will not eat the super-food I want her to eat.
When do I require this of myself?
Every day that I work, I require myself to pump at least twice. That is, it goes on my to-do list (Pump x2 x1) and it goes in my schedule section. On weekend, I don’t require myself to pump unless I’m going to be away from Diva for any long amounts of time, hiking for instance. I also don’t require myself to pump at home once I get off work.
Diva doesn’t do well watching her milk go in a bottle when she knows it could be going in her mouth.
The requirement is one of my top tips to successful pumping. Require yourself to do this. Give yourself no options.
So, tip number 1: Require/schedule
Tip number 2: do not go by milk output
What do I mean by this?
Well, many mothers say, “I’m not producing enough milk.” But what they really mean is that they are pumping milk and only getting say, an ounce per breast, and they think they aren’t producing enough for baby.
Or, they see other’s output of milk and think, “Oh my! I’m not producing that much. My baby must not getting everything he/she needs.”
Frequently removing milk, either by baby or pump, helps increase milk supply. The pump isn’t as strong as baby, however. Baby gets what it needs. The pump goes at a steady pace for however long you let it go. It doesn’t suck as hard as baby.
Keep this in mind: pumps are as low as 40% efficient, meaning you may be leaving 60% of the milk in your breasts after pumping!
Tip number 3: Change your parts
You would be amazed at the women I talk to who say they have never bought replacement parts for their pumps. “Oh, well I clean it daily,” is the response I get.
Yes, well, cleaning is necessary, but replacing key parts helps.
A prime part to replace is the membrane. On a Medela pump, that is the white flap that allows for suction and lets the milk pass into the bottle. If this isn’t replaced, it becomes weak. Then you aren’t getting good enough suction to get the most milk possible.
Make sure you change this little membrane once a month. Mark it on your calendar and require yourself to do it, just like with pumping daily.
Trust me, it does wonders!
Tip number 4: Use a quality pump
It’s tempting to just buy the first cheap pump you come to, or worse, buy one off your friend at a cheaper price. But don’t!
Most pumps are designed for a single user, single year, and single baby. For a pumping mom, or one like me who pumps and nurses, you are going to need a durable, sturdy, double-electric pump that is designed for frequent use.
I, personally, love my Medala Pump in style advance in the bag. It is sturdy, and it has been going for 18 months with NO problems. I also take care of it to make sure it lasts. It set me back about $300, but I got that out of it plus some when you add up the cost of formula that I saved. The bag is stylish, too, so nobody even realizes I’m carrying a breast pump around at work!
Tip number 5: Learn how to use your pump efficiently
Adjust the suction and speed to mimic your baby. And learn how that letdown button works! It is there for a reason: to help you pump the most milk possible by listening and watching your body.
Here is what my manual says: “After two minutes, the pump will automatically change to the Expression Phase. a. If you let-down (your milk starts to flow) sooner than 2 minutes, press the let-down button. b. If let-down has not happened during the Stimulation Phase and the pump has switched to the Expression Phase, press the let-down button once more to return to the Stimulation Phase.”
Tip number 6: Pump at least twice a day for 15 to 20 minutes each time.
I know, trust me, this sounds like a lot.
I schedule two 20 minute sessions per day. I pump for 15 minutes and get milk, then let it go for 5 to 10 minutes after milk has stopped. This ensures everything that you are going to get is gotten!
When I first started back to work, I did this three times a day.
Tip number 7: Properly size your flanges
Flanges need to be correctly sized. Too big or too small will not give you the fit you need to create the best suction possible and get the most milk possible. Who’da thunk?
Your nipple should move smoothly through the tunnel, not be jerked or squeezed in the tunnel.
If a flange is too small, this con compress milk ducks and make it hard to express anything at all.
Signs that you have a poorly fitted flange include (but are not limited to): purple/white nipples after pumping, a ‘ring’ around the side of the tunnel that does not blot off, or discomfort during pumping.
Tip number 8: Look at those valves one more time
So, I already said you need to change the membrane on the valve every month. But you can change the type of valve you have as well.
This one is new for me, as I have only recently done this at the suggestion of another pumping/nursing mom. Your pump will come with the yellow valves with the white, flap-style membrane.
However, I ordered Nenesupply’s Duckbill Valves that fit my pump. It creates a better suction, for me at least, and it’s one less part (the membrane is no longer there on this version) to worry with.
My first time using this valve over the other one I got more milk than I usually do. Not a whole tone more, but to a breastfeeding mama who needs all she can get, that little bit of extra liquid is gold!
Try these and let me know what you think!
Tip number 9: Be very careful about pumping before 6-8 weeks.
This is hard, I know. I began pumping once a day around the 4 week period. I did hand-pump in week 2 twice just to relieve pressure where Diva hadn’t nursed from being asleep and I was engorged. Ouch!
If you do start pumping, be careful not to over do it. Remember, your body works on supply and demand, meaning every ounce of milk you take and your baby takes on top of that is telling your body to make more, more, more! This can lead to over-supply, which has issues of it’s own that you don’t really want.
Going back to work: begin pumping 1 to 2 weeks before you return. Add in one pump a day. You only really need milk for the first day. You pump for day 2 on day 1 and so on. And as baby grows older, the stash grows magically.
Tip number 10: reward yourself!
I have found in 18 months that pumping is a chore, but if I reward myself for doing it every week, then I’m more reluctant to write it off. Sometimes I eat a piece of chocolate while I pump. Sometimes, I look forward to closing myself in my office for a 20 minutes while I pump (this happens on busy days). After a full week or several weeks of pumping like I’m supposed to every day, I buy myself a piece of LulaRoe or something else that I have my eye on. You deserve it!
In all, it takes your body and your brain time to learn the pump. Your body eventually gets the hang of it, letting down when it’s supposed to. Your pump will start to “talk” to you as well. I giggle while I listen and write short stories based on what I hear it say. (Don’t tell too many people that…They will look at you funny and think you are crazy.)