Ten More Tips for Pumping Mamas

Mama Say What?! mama Corey P. posted a fantastic list of advice for all the mamas who pump for their babes, and her tips are so helpful, whether you’re pumping occasionally for date-night, daily at work, or full-time for a baby who won’t nurse. I wanted to add a few more bits of advice based on my experience.

I expected to be the occasional pumper, but my daughter was born with a tongue tie that prevented her from nursing properly, and by the time we got a diagnosis and corrected the problem, we’d had to give her bottles and she would no longer nurse.

Thus began my three months as an exclusively pumping mama, and let me be the first to tell you that pumping can be hard! Especially in the beginning. Thankfully, after those three months, my baby did go back to nursing, but in the meantime I learned some things about pumping that might just help some of you. So, here goes!

1. Check the Flange Size The flanges aren’t one-size-fits-all. I didn’t know that at first! In retrospect it seemed like a no-brainer… all nipples aren’t the same size, so why should all flanges be the same size? I had to get bigger sizes than what came with my pump, and play around with them. I actually settled on different sizes for each breast, and I’ve since been told by lactation consultants that that’s not unusual. It can be tricky to find the best size, but one of the best indicators is how much milk you’re getting. If you’re getting very little with 27 mm size, and get a much larger output with 30 mm size, chances are that’s the right fit for you!

2. Lubricate You can lubricate your flanges with a drop of olive oil (or any cooking oil), and not only will it increase comfort and reduce chafing, but it may also help increase your output! It definitely made a difference for me.

3. Think About Your Baby If you have a hard time letting down for the pump, think about your baby. It makes sense, right? You’re not bonded to this machine - you’re bonded to your child. So looking at photos of your munchkin or even listening to a recording of his or her babbling voice or cries may help trigger that let-down.

4. Warmth! Heat = relaxation = milk comes out easier. Try to pump in a comfortably warm place, and if you’re having trouble relaxing, drape a heating pad or hot towel over your shoulders. You also may find your output increases when you pump right after a nice, warm shower or bath.

5. Create Your Own Letdown Cues If you have a regular pumping routine, you can create “letdown cues” for yourself. If you listen to the same music, drink the same beverage, or even just sit in the same chair each time you pump, that familiar sensation can, over time, help trigger your milk to let down more quickly. This definitely happened for me - when I was awake pumping throughout the night for my newborn, I watched episodes of a favorite TV show to stay awake. Soon, the theme song would come on and BOOM - my milk would let down!

6. Timing Milk supply is often greatest early in the morning, so if you just want to pump once a day to build a freezer stash, consider setting time aside in your morning routine if possible. On the other hand, if you want to pump to increase supply, you may want to pump in the evening when supply is usually lower. Emptier breasts signal your body to produce more milk.

7. Pump the Hindmilk If you pump after your baby nurses, you may not get much milk, but what’s there is the seriously good stuff, full of nourishing fat. If your baby is having trouble gaining weight, you can pump after feedings and collect those small amounts of fatty milk into a supplement that will pack a serious calorie punch. This might mean you don’t have to buy formula for those supplements, which will help your wallet stay fat, too.

8. Be Patient You can lose your touch with pumping. It’s a learned skill, and your body can get out-of-practice. If you have a regular pumping routine and then take a long break, you may find that you hardly get anything the next time you go to pump! That doesn’t mean your supply is dwindling. It just means that your body doesn’t remember the routine, and you need to be patient until you get back into the swing of things.

9. Learn how to Hand Express Hand-expressing is a learned skill too, and it’s a good idea for you to occasionally practice it. Take it from someone who knows, if you arrive at work for a long shift and discover that you either left part of your pump at home or one of your membranes is torn and won’t work, you do NOT want to be panicking because you don’t know how to relieve the pressure without a pump!

10. Every Woman is Different That’s not just a platitude, and I think it can be helpful to remember that our bodies don’t all work exactly the same way. Some women just never respond well to breast pumps, but they may still be fully capable of nursing their babies. If that’s you, you can try different kinds of pumps, different flanges and change up all the other variables you can think of, but try not to become frustrated with yourself!

Your body is amazing, unique, and sometimes mysterious. Whether you pump ten ounces in a sitting or just one, you’re still giving your baby a wonderful gift that only you can give.

5 Responses to Ten More Tips for Pumping Mamas

  1. These tips are fantastic! Noting that not all mamas have the same size nipples and getting a flange that fits is SO important. That and understanding that not everyone responds to the pump the same. Thanks for sharing!

  2. I’ve never heard of lubricating the flanges!

  3. Pingback: Top 10 Tips for a Pumping Mama Mama Say What?! | Mama Say What?!

  4. thank you!

  5. Great tips!! I pumped at work for over a year with my daughter and will be starting again soon for my son when I go back to work. There were a couple that I had never thought of before!

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