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, just your fingertips, to move the fluid forward. Leave the setting at the lowest comfortable level. 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 completely 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. Then 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 is 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. Pumping three times for 10 minutes is better than one 30 minute pumping.

Here is a tip for nighttime pumping.

  • Have everything set up near by so it’s all set. Pump, flanges, clean cloth or wipes, bottles and tops. Glass of water?
    Do NOT turn on the light. That will break your sleep cycle.
  • Sit up and gently massage your breasts for two minutes. Pump for 10 minutes.
  • Cover the milk, wipe the flanges (hand wipes or a clean cloth) and then put them in a sealed container or bag. That way they don’t fall on the floor and get dusty.
  • Go back to sleep. Clean the pump parts and bottles with soap and water in a few hours when you wake up.
  • 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. Writing this, I can hear many more questions pop up. I can answer more of those in a class or a home visit. You can organize a class for a group of your friends. Just give me a call.

Set up a comfortable place to pump, improvise on the timing and move on with the day.

Tell your friends!

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