Maybe you are an exclusive pumper (major props!), or maybe you pump while at work (working mom-go you!), or maybe your pump only comes out for the occasional date night (woohoo date night!). In any case there is a chance you want to maximize your time spent hooked up and increase your overall output, right?
Making milk through a cold, faceless machine isn’t always fun and can be downright challenging. Your body is programmed to respond to the warmth, smell and touch of your little one at the breast, but we know that isn’t always the reality.
First things first: Make sure your pump parts work
We know. This step sounds like a no-brainer, but hear us out. Whether your pump is brand new from the factory or an old favorite, it’s worth a once over to ensure all its parts are in working order.
Check the tubing for cracks or fraying especially where it plugs into the machine. Inspect the gaskets ensuring that they apply firmly to the valves (pro tip: these are often the first parts that need to be replaced with frequent pumping often every 6-12 weeks). Make sure the power cord, uh, actually works especially if this is a loaner pump or not brand new. And finally, make sure your pump cycles through phases; fast cycles for initiating milk flow and slower cycles while expressing milk. If anything is not in 100% working order, contact the manufacturer to troubleshoot or order replacement parts online.
Get a Flange Fitting
Measure your nipple and you’ll know your flange size, right? Wrong! Big breasts need big flanges and small ones need smaller flanges, right? Wrong! The reality is flange fit, while crucial to effective and comfortable pumping, can be a little tricky. In fact, we often find parents are using flanges that are too big. Sorry major pump manufacturers, but not all moms are a 24mm or 27mm!
If you were fitted in the hospital right after giving birth, we highly recommend checking that the flange size still fits you. Breastfeeding changes you and that includes your breast and nipple tissue. You may fluctuate through different sizes during your breastfeeding journey.
If you are having a hard time determining flange fit, check out this video.
Still confused? You may benefit from a one-on-one pumping consultation to maximize your pumping and get properly fitted.
The fun part: Relax and let it flow
While you may already know the basics of effective pumping such as to double pump for about 15-20 minutes each time, keep the vacuum high enough to elicit milk flow, but not so high to cause nipple trauma, pump to replace feeds or when you are looking to store milk, and if exclusively pumping, pump at least 8x/24 hours the first month, you may need a little help with encouraging milk flow. We’ve got you covered!
Fact: Your pump is not as cute as your baby
Looking at a picture of your baby or better yet a video with audio can encourage letdown and increase milk flow. Likewise, smelling your baby can also help. If the real deal is not available, you can drape their blanket or onesie over your shoulder so you can smell that sweet baby smell.
A Watched Pot Never Boils
Raise your hand if your grandma has said that. Oh, Grandma, you are so wise! One tip to reduce stress while pumping is to cover your pump bottles with baby socks. as was suggested by Johanna Sargeant, IBCLC at Milk and Motherhood. Peek every now and then to ensure you don’t overflow, but don’t obsessively watch. Finally a use for baby socks!
Meditation: Pump up the Oxytocin
Pumping is part physical; the breasts the hormones, and part psychological. If we can increase oxytocin and therefore increase milk release (letdown) then we can relax and potentially increase overall milk flow. Yay for science! When combined with relaxing activities such as meditation, slow breathing or calming tones such as instrumental music, women can often fully relax and produce more milk.
Give these tips a try. You'll be a pumping pro in no time! And if you are still having trouble, come see us. We can help.