Pumping breast milk can be a great tool for mothers that need to be separated from their babies or wish to express their breast milk by an alternate method than nursing at the breast.

Many mothers have questions about how to make pumping more effective, how to choose a breast pump and how often pumping needs to be done. In this blog, I’ll share some tips to help you have success with your breast pump. For mother-to-mother discussions about tips and tricks for making pumping work, as well as guidance from a lactation counselor and La Leche League representative, plan to attend the Breastfeeding Mothers Support Group from 10 to 11 am Friday at Lompoc Valley Medical Center.

Individual appointments with a lactation consultant may also be made by calling 805-737-5712.

In the meantime, here is some advice for mothers who are breastfeeding and need to pump:

  1. Choose the Best Pump for your Unique Needs – Today many breast pumps are on the market and it may feel a little overwhelming as you narrow down your choices for which breast pump will best meet your needs. When considering a breast pump, think about how often you plan to use it. If you are a stay-at-home parent and will only be occasionally separated from your infant a less expensive or manual pump may work just fine. If you plan to return to work full time or wish to exclusively pump purchasing a higher grade double electric breast pump with a good motor will be essential for helping to maintain your milk supply. Take time to read reviews about common breast pumps and pick one with features that will best meet your needs. Most insurance companies will cover the cost of a breast pump purchase so make sure to check with your insurance before purchasing a pump out of pocket. Mothers eligible for WIC can also receive an electric breast pump through their breastfeeding support program without out-of-pocket costs.
  2. Know What a Normal Milk Output Is – The first few days after your baby is born you will produce colostrum which is a rich, concentrated milk that often tends to be thick and sticky and is hard to express with a breast pump. Many mothers that pump during the first three days after delivery feel discouraged that they are only able to express small drops of milk, but rest assured this is completely normal and does not mean that your supply is inadequate to meet your baby’s needs. After your milk comes in and your supply is well established, 4-6 weeks after delivery, an average amount of milk to pump if you are separated from your baby and pumping in place of a breastfeeding is 2-4 oz from both breasts combined. If you are pumping in between nursing your baby at the breast to store up extra milk, an average amount to pump is 0.5oz to 2oz total from both breasts combined. Many mothers find that an early morning pump is a good time to express a little extra milk. Remember that your baby is more effective at removing milk than a breast pump in general and some moms don’t respond well to pumping, so pump output is never a good way to judge your milk supply.
  3. Make Sure you Get a Good Fit with Your Pump Flange- Breast pump flanges, the piece that fits against your breast, come in different sizes and it’s important to make sure you have the correct size. Pumping should not cause significant discomfort and if you are uncomfortable while pumping or are having trouble expressing milk it may be that you have a poor fit with your breast flange. Seek out help from an experienced lactation professional to make sure you have a good fit with your pump. Many mothers also find it helpful to apply nipple cream before pumping or directly to the breast flange to lessen friction and help get a tight seal for adequate suction while pumping.
  4. Try to Relax- At times it can be hard to relax while pumping and may feel a bit unnatural for some mothers to express their milk in this way. Feeling lots of anxiety while pumping can inhibit the reflex that lets your milk flow and can make pumping less effective. Try to distract yourself with a calming activity such as watching a favorite TV show, listening to music, or reading a book. Some mothers find that looking at a picture or video of their baby helps them to relax and have a good milk let down. You may also find that if you cover up the collection bottle so you can’t worry too much about how much milk your expressing, it’s easier to relax and have a good milk let down.
  5. Use Your Hands – Many mothers find they can get a better output while pumping by using their hands to massage, squeeze, and knead the breasts especially in areas that feel full such as the upper quadrant of the breast. Hand expression after pumping can also help to fully drain the breasts and increase the fat content of breast milk. A good hands free pumping bra can make hands on pumping so much easier and can free you up to do other tasks while pumping if you will be pumping frequently.

Resources

Here are some helpful links that may help you with your breastfeeding journey:

Stanford Medicine – Hand Expression and Hands-on Pumping Videos

Centers for Disease Control – Safe Storage and Handling of Breast Milk

About the Author

Author: Haley Hayes, RN, Lactation Coordinator

Haley S. Hays graduated from Washburn University with a Bachelor of Science degree in nursing in 2007. She has spent the past 12 years working as a maternity nurse in a variety of settings. In 2011 Haley became certified as an International Board-Certified Lactation Consultant. She currently coordinates the lactation program at LVMC.

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