Breast pumping can feel frustrating and overwhelming for new moms, but like any skill, it needs time and practice. Pumping comes in handy when you want to increase your milk’s supply, store milk for certain hours, or leave your baby with a caregiver with a bottle of pumped milk while you finish your daily chores. Regardless of the situation, there is one thing most new moms would agree on is that pumping is no fun. Whether you exclusively pump or combine it with breastfeeding, these 10 must-know breast-pumping tips which can help you start thrusting milk more easily and efficiently.
What is Breast Pumping?
Breast-pumping is an act of stimulating your breasts to trigger milk production. Breast-pumping devices mimic your newborn’s suckling pattern to stimulate your breasts to release prolactin – the milk-producing hormone. However, breast pumping is not a replacement for breastfeeding as in breastfeeding, the baby’s suckling produces milk in the amount they wants to drink.
Breast pumps consist of breast shields, a connector, and a bottle. The nipple is gently pulled into the suction cup to release breast milk which is then collected into the feeding bottle. It is important that you have the correct size for suction cups to ensure successful pumping.
A newborn baby suckles 50 to 90 times per minute and slows down once the milk is produced. An electric breast pump emulates a similar motion by producing one pull per second to stimulate milk production.
Breast pumping is practiced for several reasons. Working moms opt for breast-pumping as they need to be away from their little ones for a certain period. Breast pumping can help you store milk in a bottle to be fed by a caregiver later. Also, pumping stimulates breasts to produce more milk and helps mums with supply issues.
Breast-pumping can help your partner with feedings and develop a deeper bond between your little one. Pumping helps your baby get healthy breastmilk if she has not mastered the art of suckling yet. These pumps are lightweight and portable, so you can take them anywhere to ensure no feeding session is missed.
How Often Should a New Mom Pump?
New moms can combine pumping with breastfeeding or go for exclusive pumping. Ideally, you may want to pump as often as your baby needs feeding. If you are returning to work or school and can’t stay close by your baby, pump after each nursing session or every 2-3 hours. If you want to replace breastfeeding with pumping, pump 8-10 times per day to ensure the successful removal of milk.
How Long Should a New Mom Pump?
In the initial stages, breast pumping produces small amounts of milk. As a new mum, you will need to spend 15-20 minutes hooked to the pump to produce an average of 25-35 oz per day. When you think your milk has started to flow in adequate amounts, continue pumping for two more minutes after your milk has stopped dripping. The last drop of milk is the most nutritious and contains the highest number of calories.
Pumping till the last drop of milk leaves your breasts will signal your body to produce more milk for the next session. When your breasts are not emptied properly, your body will decrease the milk supply.
Some mums experience continuous milk flow during pumping. However, a pumping session should not last more than 30 minutes, even if you think some milk is left.
If you want to combine pumping with breastfeeding, pumping for 15-20 minutes immediately after a nursing session will suffice. However, if you are exclusively pumping, you can extend each session for more than 20 minutes over a 24-hour period to produce a good amount of milk.
Breast pumping is no trick. It’s a gradual process that takes time, patience, and, most importantly, regular practice. Initially, your pumping equipment may not produce the amount of milk you want, but with frequent and regular pumping sessions, you will get there.
Is Pumping for 10 Minutes Enough?
The breast-pumping experience is unique to every woman’s body. Some women may feel completely drained out after 15 minutes, while some may continue to experience the let-down for more than 20 minutes. The general guideline is to pump for at least 15 minutes to produce enough amount of milk. However, if you are at work and in a rush, you can do a power-pumping session of 10 minutes to collect milk for your little one.
How Much Milk is Normal Pumping?
In the early days of pumping, expect less amount of milk as your body is still getting used to pumping. During the first few weeks, producing only 1 to 2 oz per day is normal. The milk production gradually increases and reaches its peak (i.e., 30 oz) after 40 days of postpartum. The ideal milk supply ranges from 25-35 oz per day.
How much milk you produce depends on several factors, including the time of the day, breast storage capacity, and your emotional state.
Time of the Day
The time of the day is one of the factors that can affect your milk yield. Your milk production can vary over the course of the day. Most moms experience high milk production in the morning than at other times.
It is recommended to pump 30 to 60 minutes after the first morning nursing session to store milk for later use. If you think pumping in the morning isn’t for you, choose the time of the day that gives you the desired results.
Breast Storage Capacity
The storage capacity of your breasts depends on the ability of your mammary glands to produce milk and not on the breast size. Your milk yield for each feeding session can indicate whether you have a smaller, larger, or average storage capacity.
If your breasts are not able to produce more than 3 oz even after several hours since your last pumping session, you may have a smaller storage capacity. Conversely, if you practice exclusive breastfeeding with a pumping session, for missed breastfeeding, a milk collection of more than 4 oz indicates a larger storage capacity.
New mums going through postpartum depression can experience a whirlpool of emotions ranging from sadness, anger, and frustration to disappointment. These emotions can have a negative effect on a mother’s milk yield. Thus, if you are experiencing any of these emotions, avoid pumping until you are calm and comfortable.
Can I Go 8 Hours Without Pumping at Night?
Whether you can go 8 hours without pumping at night depends on two factors:
- Your baby’s age
- Quantity of milk required
Most newborns lose a few grams during the first days after birth, regardless of whether they take breast milk or formula milk. Once your baby regains the birth weight, which usually happens after the first two weeks, they may start sleeping for longer stretches at night.
If that’s the case with your baby, then it’s okay to go 8 hours without pumping at night. However, to be on the safe side, don’t take more than 5-6 hours gap between feedings during the night. If your baby has not regained her birth weight, pump after every 3 hours during the night to maintain milk supply according to your baby’s needs.
As a working mom, you may want to build a milk stash for later use. It’s wise to pump once or twice during the night while your baby is in a deep sleep to ensure you have enough supply of milk for rainy days.
How Do I Know My Breast is Empty After Pumping?
There’s no trick to finding out whether you have emptied your breasts to the last drop during a pumping session. In general, though, you can move your breasts gently to check whether they feel soft or dense. If you don’t feel the heaviness of milk, your breasts are probably empty.
Most mums think their breasts are empty when the milk stops flowing during pumping. However, this doesn’t signal empty breasts and only means the let-down or reflex has finished. If you continue pumping for a few more minutes, you will experience another reflex triggering your milk production.
How Do I Maximize My Breast Milk When Pumping?
Breast pumping isn’t intuitive and can be tricky for new moms. While your mammary glands may be able to produce a certain amount of milk, you can try a few tips to maximize your breast milk when pumping.
Pumping regularly and frequently is the most common way to increase your milk supply. Some moms practice cluster pumping, which involves stimulating your breast every five minutes at any time of the day. Pumping every 2 hours over a 24-hour period is also known to have increased the supply of milk in new mums.
About 80% of breast milk is water. So, you may find it hard to produce enough breast milk if you are not well-hydrated. Drinking 8-10 glasses of water throughout the day can help new mums to maintain a steady milk supply.
Try Lactation Supplements
Although it’s not guaranteed, taking lactation cookies made of oats or herbal supplements such as fenugreek seeds may improve milk production. Talk to your lactation consultant before taking such supplements.
Does Higher Suction Mean More Milk?
Some moms assume using breast pumps at a higher suction setting can increase milk production. However, this is counterproductive as applying high pressure can damage breasts and the delicate area around the nipples, resulting in low milk production.
What Foods Help Increase Milk Production?
Several new mums have experienced a rise in milk production after eating protein-rich foods, tofu, pumpkin, fenugreek, and fennel. According to some scientific research, these foods contain lactation-promoting ingredients that may improve your milk supply. However, not all foods are safe, and it is best to consult your doctor before adding them to your grocery list.
Bananas are a calorie-rich fruit that can help you deal with the hunger pangs while your little one suckles your breasts. As bananas are rich in potassium, they can help maintain electrolyte balance and create a consistent milk flow in new mums.
What Foods to Avoid While Breastfeeding?
Breast milk contains the right amount of the nutrients your baby requires for proper growth. While the composition of the breastmilk is fixed, your diet can have an effect on the contents of the milk.
Here is a list of foods you should steer clear of while breastfeeding:
- Herbal supplements.
- Caffeine and dark chocolate.
- Fish high in mercury.
- Highly processed foods with unhealthy fats.
What are the Disadvantages of Using a Breast Pump?
While breast pumps mostly have the convenience and a steady milk supply, they can also have some disadvantages.
Less Immune System Benefits
During breastfeeding, the baby’s skin is in contact with the mother’s, transferring her signals about how much milk the baby needs. That is known as the feedback loop, where the mother’s body responds to her little one’s demands. However, a feedback loop cannot be developed when pumping, resulting in fewer immune system benefits to the baby.
While breastfeeding is free, breast pumping requires certain equipment. In breast pumping, you may have to spend money on storage bags, milk bottles, and a pumping bra.
Pumping helps in producing and storing milk for later use. Breast milk expires even when it is frozen, and if you are someone who can express in large amounts in one session, storage can be a problem.
Do I Need to Wash Pump Parts After Every Use?
Washing breast-pump parts thoroughly after each feeding session is necessary to protect your little one from germs. To complete the disinfecting process, it is also important to sanitize the parts after washing.
Here’s how you can wash pump parts after every use:
- Place pump parts in a basin filled with water.
- Add a dishwashing liquid to the water and start scrubbing the parts gently.
- Lastly, rinse the parts and dry them with a clean towel.
Does Pumping Help Lose Weight?
Both breast pumping and breastfeeding help you shed some of the pounds you gained during pregnancy. Pumping can burn around 500 calories per day. Exclusively breastfeeding burns more calories than pumping.
It is estimated that you lose around 300-850 calories when breastfeeding. Regardless of your feeding method, it is important to increase your calorie intake to keep your energy levels high.
10 Breast Pumping Tips
Although breast-pumping can feel frustrating, these 10 pumping tips can help you express more easily.
1. Massage Your Breasts
New moms experience increases in the milk supply when they massage their breasts. Massaging firm areas around the breast can make milk expression easier. You can massage in a circular motion for 2-3 minutes before wearing suction cups on your breasts to stimulate the release of milk-producing hormones, prolactin and oxytocin. Massaging while pumping is also an effective way to produce more milk.
2. Stimulate Your Let-down Reflex
Your let-down reflex happens when your baby suckles your breast while the milk-producing hormones prolactin, and oxytocin, are released into the blood. When you are pumping, your baby is away from your body, so you have to find other ways to stimulate your let-down reflex.
Feeding your baby with one breast while pumping from the other breast is a convenient way to express milk. When your baby’s skin comes in contact with yours, it stimulates the let-down reflex.
3. Make Yourself Comfortable
New moms take some time before befriending breast pumps. When you start your first pumping session, ensure that your nipple fits comfortably inside the suction cup. You may feel slightly uncomfortable during the first 10 seconds of the pumping sensation. That is followed by a tingling sensation when the milk starts flowing from your nipples.
4. Prepare Beforehand
A breast-pumping session should be free from distractions. Keep everything you may need, such as your phone charger, snacks, water bottles, and milk storage bags, close by to avoid interrupting the session. Keep clean towels near you to soak any drips.
5. Time it Right
Find out the time when you express most milk. As a new mum, express for at least 15 minutes. You may not be able to stimulate your breasts initially, but eventually, you will start producing milk in the desired amounts. Some mothers experience the greatest milk yield after the first feed, while others prefer pumping after every second feed. The key is to pump regularly and frequently.
6. Double Pump
To get the highest milk yield, you should pump both breasts simultaneously. That can be because when you stimulate both breasts simultaneously, more of the hormone prolactin is released into the blood, resulting in higher milk production.
7. Store Milk Right Away
It is recommended to place milk in the freezer right after collection to prevent spoiling. Freshly expressed milk can stay in your freezer for six months, while the leftover milk from feeding must be used within 2 hours after placing it in the freezer.
8. Read Your Pump Manual
It’s wise to spend some time reading your pump manual to get familiar with the breast pump’s parts. Ideally, you should get acquainted with your pump during pregnancy to avoid the hassle of figuring out the equipment while you are still recovering from birth.
9. Don’t Compare
The most important thing to remember when pumping is not to compare yourself with others. Two women can have the same breast size but may produce unequal amounts of milk. Your brain releases adrenaline (stress hormone) when you are anxious. Thus, comparing yourself to other women while you pump can be counterproductive or even decrease your milk supply.
10. Establish a Pumping Routine
Establishing a pumping routine will signal your breast to get into the ‘state” of producing. Your pumping routine can include drinking a glass of water, dimming your room’s lights, and hanging a ‘Do Not Disturb’ sign outside your room. You can also look at your baby’s photos, listen to her voice, or play soothing music to stimulate your milk production.
The idea of breast-pumping can feel overwhelming and frustrating for most new mums. It takes some time before your body starts responding to your pump’s stimulation. With regular practice accompanied by pumping tips like stimulating your let-down, you will be able to collect the amount of milk you desire.
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