Top 5 Pumping Tips
- Use a Pumping Bra & Multitask
Perhaps the most important tip for pumping is to have a setup that allows you to do other things you enjoy (like snuggling your baby) or need to do (like commuting) while you pump. In order for this to happen, you absolutely need a hands free bra. Otherwise, you'll find yourself skipping or shortening pump sessions due to the inconvenience of having to be tied to a machine and holding your flanges for extended periods. We highly recommend the Kindred Bravely Sublime Pumping/Breastfeeding Bra or the Momcozy budget alternative . If possible, purchase the Spectra S1 or S9 pump so that you don't have to be connected to an outlet. After its charged, the Spectra S1 will run for at least three hours on its built-in battery. If you have the Spectra S2, you can buy a car adapter plug for just $10 and get a long extension cord for home use. When you have a portable pump, your options for pumping multiply - you can pump while walking around the house, in the car, or in bed!
Holding your baby while pumping also helps you multitask and pump more successfully. You can snuggle your newborn on your chest in between the pump flanges or position them on your lap for a bottle while pumping. Check out the tips in this video:
2. Simplify Your Cleaning Routine
If you pump multiple times a day, instead of washing your pump parts every time you use them, store them in the fridge in between pump sessions. When you store your pump parts in the fridge between pump sessions there is no need to wipe or rinse - in fact, the breastmilk that coats the flange and bottle will actually help it to stay fresh thanks to breastmilk's germ fighting properties. If you are using a community fridge at work, you can discreetly hide your parts in a lunch bag. If you pump exclusively, consider purchasing a portable mini-fridge to keep in your car, workplace or bedroom. Once a day, disassemble the pump accessories and wash them thoroughly. You can hand wash or place the parts in the dishwasher's top rack basket. Now you only have to clean once a day!
Another option to simplify the pumping routine, is to leave the pump parts out for up to 6 hours at room temperature and just wash them every couple pump sessions. With either method, washing your hands before pumping helps keep it a germ-free environment.
3. Maximize Output with Breast Compressions
Hands-free pumping is awesome for moms that are multi-tasking or on the go. But if you are trying to maximize your pumping output, nothing works better than using breast massage and gentle compression while pumping. Place your hand around your breast as shown in the picture and gently massage the deep, lumpy layers of your breasts (the milk glands) while pumping. You'll notice a significant increase in the amount of milk you pump over time and also a thicker fat layer in your milk. Its thought that massage helps shake loose milkfat that sticks to the walls of the milk ducts resulting in higher fat content in the pumped milk. Check out this amazing video by Stanford Medicine on how to combine hand expression with pumping for greater breastmilk output and higher fat content: Maximizing Milk Production
4. Customize Your Pump's Settings & Fit
Experiment with your pump's settings to find the perfect speed and vacuum setting for your body. Spectra pumps allow you to independently set your pump's cycle speed and vacuum strength, so you can find just the right setting for your body. In general, studies have found that using stronger vacuum settings results in higher milk production - though you should never turn up your pump so high that it causes pain. The speed setting is also very individual, but many women find that starting with a light, fast cycle helps to get their milk flow started and then after let down occurs they switch to a slower, stronger cycle. You can easily toggle back and forth between let down mode (cycle speed 70, vacuum 3-4) and the default/primary mode (cycle speed 54, vacuum setting 4-8) by pushing Spectra's wavy button. On Medela pumps, the vacuum and cycle speed are not independently adjusted, so try starting with your pump on a lower setting and then turn the dial up gradually once your milk starts flowing.
Its important to use the right flange size for your nipple size. The narrow tunnel within the flange should be approximately the same width as your nipple with no more than 1mm of air space around it. Your areola should not be pulling into the tunnel. Most women are using too big of a flange, resulting in less milk extraction and greater discomfort. If you examine your pump flanges carefully, you should see sizing written on them such as "24mm" or "28mm." Almost all pumps have additional sizes available to order online so you can a fit that is customized for you. Its fine to use knock off brands like Maymom flanges as long as the description says its compatible with your pump. This can significantly improve both how comfortable pumping is and how effectively your pump is able to empty your breasts.
5. Know Your Magic Number
Your breasts are signaled to maintain milk production by frequent milk removal. On the other hand, your breasts send a signal to decrease milk production if the milk is allowed to build up in the breast for several hours without being emptied. Your body thinks sitting milk is wasted milk and plans to make less in the future. Whereas frequently emptied breasts (via pumping or breastfeeding) signal your body to stay busy producing milk. Most women need to remove the milk from their breasts about 8 times a day, or every 3 hours, in order to maintain milk production. Keep in mind this number includes all milk removals whether via breastfeeding or pumping. For some mothers trying to increase milk production, their breasts may need to be emptied 10 times a day. However, some lucky women have what's called high milk storage capacity, which means they have a higher than average number of milk glands and therefore can fit a lot of milk in their breasts before their body signals to decrease supply.
Women with high milk storage capacity can easily pump over 5 oz at a time (combined) without feeling any engorgement between pump sessions. They can get by with less milk removals, such as 6 times per day, and still be able to maintain full milk production. The number of times your breasts need to be emptied per day (breastfeeding or pumping) to maintain milk production has been called "your magic number." Be careful to not drop below your magic number or else milk production will gradually decrease over time. Full milk production is considered 25-30 oz per day, and divided between 8 sessions (the "magic number" for most people) that would equal about 3.5 oz per session. If you can easily pump more than 3.5oz each pump session, you can try to drop down to 6-7 sessions per day but be watchful for signs that your body is signaling to decrease production. If you notice your output gradually declining over time, add one or two breastfeeding/pump sessions back into your routine. Also note that most women need to pump for about 20 minutes, but you can shorten this time if your milk flows quickly and you have expressed the amount of milk your baby needs.