To my friends who have asked how it all works, here it is, I hope I covered everything! Feel free to ask me any other questions!
HOW OFTEN TO PUMP & WHEN?:
First you should have a good quality, double electric pump. The quality of the pump can make all the difference in the world!
A normal newborn baby nurses on average 8 to 12 times in a 24 hour period. Most experts suggest it is best if mom can come close to matching what the normal nursing baby would do, and recommend she pump about every two hours, not going longer than three hours between sessions. The more frequently the breasts are emptied, the more milk you should have. If you were to pump at least every 3 hours, for about 20 minutes, you should establish and maintain a good milk supply. In the first couple of weeks, you should pump at night between 1 am to 5 am, that is when the hormone that tells your body to make milk is the highest. That being said, I did NOT get up to pump in the middle of the night if my baby/babies wasn’t awake. The sleep was more important to me! A lot of pumping is trial and error and this is why keeping info in a spreadsheet (or journal) is helpful. If you start sleeping through the night or going longer stretches and see a huge decline in your volume, you can always set your alarm to add another pump back in. I never had to but this can vary from mom to mom. I did the early morning pump as long as I was up feeding my baby/babies, but if she slept 6 hours through the night, so did I!
The main concern is to get enough pumps in per day – a minimum of 7 pumps per day in the beginning. I will say from experience that when I pushed myself to get in 8 pumps per day, my supply REALLY increased. Most of the time, I just couldn’t push myself and ended up with 7 times. And to create a little bit of sanity, it is the number of pumps per day that you get in and not necessarily the amount of time you wait in between pumps that counts. Once I drop the middle of the night pump I get on average 6-7 pumps per day. After a few months you will be able to decrease the amount of pumps you need to do per day, as long as you are keeping up with your baby.
PUMPING – HOW LONG?
The standard advice is to pump for 15-20 minutes. It’s best to pump at least 15 minutes, also pumping until your milk stops flowing will tell your body that you need more milk; thus increasing your supply. When you notice your milk is no longer flowing do some breast massaging for the last 5 minutes or until the milk stops flowing and you have reached your 15-20 minutes. 15 minutes should absolutely be the minimum pumping time. I’ve talked to women who only pumped for 10 minutes and eventually started losing their supply.
Keep in mind that it takes time to get your supply established. If you start pumping your supply will begin to increase over the next few weeks IF you continue to express your colostrum/milk frequently & completely (supply & demand). Around 3 months your supply should be established and have an average per day. In the beginning, expect to only produce around 2-4oz per session and over time this will continue to increase. Don’t give up!
“More is not better” when it comes to the suction settings on the breast pump. Do not set the pump speed on high, but rather keep it on a lower setting for comfort.
This is very important, the higher the suction does NOT mean the more milk you make. Your pump will probably have a suction setting of minimum, medium, and maximum. I have mine on minimum and it is what is comfortable to me. Very rarely do I set it any higher. Do what is comfortable for you. You need to be relaxed and comfortable to get the most out of your pumping session.
INCREASING YOUR SUPPLY
There are tips on increasing milk supply below – probably the most important thing to remember is to pump often and pump long enough to soften (or “empty”) the breast.
Some tips for day to day supply:
First drink plenty of water. Staying hydrated is very important while breastfeeding/pumping. Water of course is best, but some other options that I have heard increase supply is Gatorade/Powerade.
Make sure you eat! While you are pumping, it can make you hungry as a horse and it does that for a reason. You need the extra calories because you are burning so much off! When I didn’t eat enough, I would get really light headed and feel like I was going to fall over! Eventually, your hunger should taper off (mine does).
Eat oatmeal. Oatmeal helps bring your milk in so I usually start eating this for breakfast even before baby comes. I also make no-bake cookies or oatmeal chocolate chip cookies for other ways to get the oatmeal.
Get some rest (yeah, I know easier said than done!) If you are exhausted and have the opportunity to take a nap (even if it pushes your pump back) do it! You will actually get more milk that way! Even if you’re not sleeping, rest by sitting down a lot. Conserving energy is important.
Don’t stress too much. This all depends on how you personally handle stress. It has to be some MAJOR stressful situation for it to hurt my supply.
Fenugreek will increase your supply if you really need it. I have used this for the twins in the beginning when my milk was still getting started. I never had to use it while pumping for the older girls. I’m not a huge fan of this because if used a lot it makes you and the babies smell like maple syrup! This doesn’t work for everyone so give it a try and see if it helps and stop if you don’t notice a difference.
Essential Oils I tried Fennel oil in the beginning with the twins, but only used it for a week because my milk was coming in and I was no longer having to supplement. I have had to use it again recently due to having mastitis (well almost, I didn’t get an infection) and with the fever and clogged duct it caused my supply to go down on my left side. I have a lot going on so I don’t always remember to apply it but it is slowly bringing my supply back up.
There is a tea called Mothers Milk Tea and it is supposed to increase your supply if you drink it. (I haven’t tried it)
Most importantly, good pumping habits will keep your supply up and increase it!
Go hands free! This was the best trick I learned!! It helps me with needing to do other things while pumping(feed babies, eat, read, etc.)and being bored out of my mind! The best thing about this bustier is that it can be worn over any nursing bra. So, when it’s time to pump, I put the flaps down on my nursing bra, wrap the bustier around, slide the horns through the holes, position them and zip it up. That’s all!
The refrigerator trick. This is where you rinse your horns and/or collection bottles after each pumping session, and put them in the refrigerator. The idea is that since breast milk is good in the fridge for 5 days, any residue left on the horns won’t matter. Then you can wash the horns/bottles once at night.
Excessive caffeine may cause problems. I typically have 1-2 drinks a day(Dr. Pepper helps me keep my sanity), it won’t hurt. Just don’t go over board.
Medications that have Sudafed (pseudoephedrine HCl) in them can affect milk supply! Be careful! Also some birth control pills.
Let me just finish with my pumping experiences…
I made the decision to pump exclusively. I have a positive outlook on pumping and this makes pumping successful for me.
I had to supplement for the twins in the beginning due to not having enough milk…this was the hardest thing for me but I knew my babies needed to eat and it had to be done. My milk takes 5 days just to come in and then has a slow increase from there, so I was always 2 oz or so short for the first week and a half. I pumped every two hours for the first two weeks to get my milk going. I then started making enough milk that I was a whole feeding ahead of the girls and it just continued to increase from there. I now have a little over 1,000 ounces in my deep freeze! So don’t give up, it does get better!
I have been told I’m crazy for choosing to pump – that it wont work and I wont be able to keep up with my baby/babies…Well it does work if you just keep with it! After 9 months of pumping with Avery(my first) I was able to stop pumping all together because I had over 3,000 ounces stored up in my deep freeze! That was enough milk to finish the year off with her plus use some for baby number two(they are only 15 months apart)!
Mothers who choose to exclusively pump are very dedicated mothers –determined to do the best they can for their precious babies, and they deserve respect and support.
YOU CAN DO THIS!!!