Pumping Practicalities

Visiting moms in their homes and teaching breastfeeding classes, I almost always get questions about pumping. Here is some practical advice about expressing and pumping breast milk. This will help make your time and effort more effective and efficient.

Why do I keep saying expressing and pumping? Because the main idea is that you are expressing milk: getting it out of your breast and into a bowl or bottle. Hand expression and pumping are different techniques for the same result. Combining these two is very effective.

Tip #1 A more efficient use of your time and more comfortable.

Always do a little gentle breast massage before you pump. This moves the fluid, collecting milk fat along the way, toward the areola where the milk collects.  Then the pump will draw more milk because there is more available. Dr. Jane Morton and her colleagues at Stanford University hospital found that women who hand express and pump get on average 40% more milk than women who only pump. That is certainly more efficient use of your time.

It does not help to turn the pump suction up high. That will hurt in a short time. Use gentle massage to move the fluid forward and leave the setting at the lowest comfortable level. That makes it more comfortable. Massage makes it easier to hand express.

Here is an excellent video, from Maya Bolman, IBCLC that explains breast massage and hand expression. For some women, hand expression is more comfortable than a pump. On a practical level, it’s helpful to have this skill if the electricity goes out or you forget your pump at home.

Tip #2 As long as there’s a demand, there is a supply.

Your breasts do not empty between feedings or pumping. You don’t have to ‘wait’ for your breasts to fill up again. Your baby or the pump gets only part of what is in your breasts at that time. Your body starts making milk as soon as there’s a little less. That means you can feed your baby, even if you just finished pumping. It will take a little longer for your baby to feed, perhaps, though the milk there. Rest assured, when your milk is lower in volume, it’s higher in fat. Calorie for calorie your baby will get what she needs.

Knowing this, you can see how you can fit pumping in anywhere during the day (or night). Short and frequent is more effective than a few long pumps. Three 10-minute pumpings are better than one 30 minute pumping.

Here is a tip for nighttime pumping.

• Have everything set up near by so it’s all set. Do NOT turn on the light. That will break your sleep cycle.

• Sit up and gently massage for two minutes. Pump for 10 minutes.

• Cover the milk, put the flanges in a sealed container or bag (so they don’t fall on the floor and get dusty). You can clean everything in a few hours when you wake up.

• Go back to sleep. Did you know women who breastfeed get into a deep sleep cycle sooner than women who don’t lactate? (If you are producing breast milk regularly, that counts.) Here’s some more information about sleep and breastfeeding families.

Those are a few tips to make pumping more feasible in your life. Set up a comfortable place to pump, improvise on the timing and move on with the day.

Writing this, I can hear many more questions pop up. I will answer more of these in a class. I’ll be teaching a Breastfeeding and Returning to Work class at Beverly Hospital in August. (Register with the Parent Education department 978.927.9103)

We can also arrange a home visit or a class for a group of your friends. Just give me a call.

Tell your friends!

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