I frequently hear from mothers complaining that they don’t get very much milk when they pump. A breastpump is nowhere near as efficient as a baby at emptying a breast but it’s better than nothing when baby isn’t able to nurse for whatever reason or you need to save milk for future use. The amount you can pump will vary greatly depending on several factors including the type of pump, time of day, last time the breast was emptied, length of session and even level of distraction. I have been known to pump 7 ounces from one side in one session and only drops in another and every amount in between.
I wrote these tips in a document for the La Leche League Facebook group and I frequently copy and paste it to e-mail replies when asked for pumping help so I figured that it would be a good idea to share this on my blog for quick and easy reference.
Below is a list of things that worked for me when I used to pump and that have helped many of my clients. I hope that you find at least some of them useful.
The type of pump, the frequency and length of the sessions all play a role in how much you’ll get. There are different tricks, many minor tweaks that have helped me and many of my clients such as:
- If pumping at work try to time your breaks at baby’s usual mealtimes
- Be hydrated, drink water right before and during pumping (for myself cold water worked better than room temperature water)
- Being relaxed when pumping is important, muscular tension can also occur in the breasts which inhibits letdown. If your neck and shoulders are tense, chances are that you will have a hard time getting much milk out. Deep breaths, relaxing music, brief meditation, whatever works for you as a quick relaxant will help. A lot of moms find that using a hands free pumping bra allows them to have a more relaxed posture than holding the flanges against your chest (you can easily make your own pumping bra out of an old sports bra).
- Avoid multi tasking while pumping- it’s harder for your brain to have a good letdown with a machine so focusing on baby helps. Some moms use a piece of clothing that baby wore, a picture of baby, a video. Iin my case a recording of baby crying gave me more milk than a picture of him smiling and double the amount of milk than if I was just sitting there eating, watching tv, Facebooking or texting while pumping.
- I know it’s hard to do but avoid staring at the bottles while pumping as stressing over ounces will reduce output.
- Using breast massage and compressions before and while pumping greatly increases the output since you’re able to get milk out that the suction of the pump can’t get. This video teaches a great technique to increase production http://newborns.stanford.edu/Breastfeeding/MaxProduction.html
- Dry pumping for several minutes after the last drop sends the signal to your body that it needs to make more milk. For me I found that drinking a tall glass of water while still dry pumping would give me a second letdown after about a minutewith an average of an extra ounce per side.
I hope that at least some of these tips are useful.