When I first started pumping, my husband described my pumping dilemma with a co-worker. She told him that, like learning how to breastfeed, using a breast pump is an art form that has to be learned separately. And I totally agree. Not everyone has it easy when it comes to milk expression.
My focus was solely on breastfeeding. Therefore, I never thought to rent or own a pump. To me, there really wasn’t a reason or need for a breast pump. Then one fateful night, a male friend came to visit our first child. There I was apologizing for wearing ice packs on my chest. My milk had come in, and I was engorged and in pain. He smiled and asked me if I had a pump.
A couple of weeks later, I went and rented one. By that time my milk supply was stable, but being new to breastfeeding I felt like I needed it anyway. I was excited and thought that I would be pumping out flowing rivers of milk. Imagine to my surprise that all I got was a little dribble at the bottom of the containers. I couldn’t understand why. I had followed all the suggested advice: finding a comfortable space, applying warm wash clothes, massaging my breasts, and staring at my sleeping son. Nothing really worked. That’s when my husband’s co-worker explained that that was normal, an accomplishment really. She had given up on pumping because she too was unable to pump very much milk. So I returned the pump.
Around the four month mark, my oldest son stopped gaining weight. A lactation consultant suggested pumping after each feeding to boost my supply. Pumping was better at this point. I carefully collected enough to get four ounces over the course of the week. I was happy when I could collect an ounce a day.
With my second son, I was more prepared. I researched pumps and finally invested in my own. I also started using it within the week of his birth. Now I am happy to say that I’ve pumped upwards of 7 ounces in one session and average about 5. There are days when I’m still simply coating the bottom of the bottle, but I now understand why. Like an artist, I’ve perfected my pumping technique and have managed to create a cache of milk in my freezer.
In the process, I discovered a few things about pumping. Most women have more milk in the morning so that’s the best time to pump. This is especially true for me since my toddler nurses during the day, but not at night.
Pumping from one breast and feeding the baby on the other at the same time helps. Babies are far more proficient about getting the let-down reflex to work. Pumping works by stimulating the let-down reflex. I’ve used this technique a couple of times. It’s saved me much time and many headaches.
Take advance of the stimulation cycle or set your pump to have low suction and quick speed. This simulates that gnawing motion that babies do before let-down. On occasion I do this especially if one breast is not quite so full as the other.
Also if I “miss” a feeding with my toddler or my infant, that’s the best time to pump. (When I say miss, I mean I miss bringing them to breast because they are either consuming previously pumped milk or in the case of my toddler, eating table food.) I now understand why it’s easier for working moms to pump than it is for me a stay-at-home mom. You’re pumping what you normally feed to your child.
I was feeding my child and trying to pump afterwards, which is good for stimulating milk production but not for cultivating a milk stash. If I want to grow a milk stash for my freezer, it’s better if I pump before feeding my children and then feed my children. There will still be enough left for them.
I’ve since given up on all the other suggestions of warm towels and pictures of my baby, but I know that that works for other women. Pumping is truly an art form and what works for one mom doesn’t always work for every mom.
For more information about pumps, please read this article. Next week I’ll be discussing the Marmet technique, the most widely recommended form of hand expression.
Article by Laura Weirich
Laura Weirich has been married for four years and has two sons. She's been breastfeeding for nearly two years and currently tandem nurses her toddler and infant. A big proponent of breastfeeding, she's been educating her friends and family about the benefits of breastfeeding and helping other women along the way. When she's not nursing, she chases a toddler all day, washes cloth diapers, tries to catch a few zs and reads up on the latest research about children.
Laura has written 33 awesome articles for Natural Family Today.
Like Us On Facebook
Grab a Button
Join Our Blogroll