All About Pumping/Maximizing Pumping
Whether you're needing to be separated from your infant, having direct feeding problems (engorgement, plugged ducts, mastitis, low supply, difficult latch, TOTs, etc.) or need to pump to assist with interventions such as supplementing with formula or nipple shield use, pumping is a completely different ball game than latching! You are trying to use a machine in lieu of a baby, and it takes a little bit of engineering to trick your body into having a "let down". Unfortunately it is rarely a matter of sitting in front of your pump for a set amount of time, many lactating people have to be very active in this process to obtain an adequate amount of milk. Here are some tips to help:
PUMPING STEPS/TIPS TO MAXIMIZE YOUR MILK OUTPUT
Massage breasts before pumping to "wake them up" and get things warm and moving! Can also take a warm, shower or apply a hot/wet wash cloth or diaper. (Diapers cup nicely and hold in water the best!)
Get relaxed! If your baby is with you, pump near them if able, have some skin to skin time immediately before pumping. If separated from your baby, watch a video or look at pictures of them, think of your pump as a friend to help you connect with your baby, you could even obtain an item that smells like your baby to utilize all your senses. On the other hand you could also focus on relaxing other ways! If you find thinking about your baby and pumping at that moment is stressful, watch a show or video online, read a book, meditate. Do anything to help feel relaxed and as least stressed as possible. Also if you find you are constantly looking about how much you are obtaining and it stresses you out, put a blanket, cover or sock over your pumping bottles so you can't see it! (I swear this works like a charm! ;-D)
Pump both breasts at the same time. This will increase hormone levels and generally result in obtaining more milk.
With whatever pump you are using, regardless of brand or type, always start with fastest setting first. The "fast mode" will make the milk "let down". You may feel this let down, or not. Both are normal! You will notice an increase in the volume and the milk may even start spraying! This means your let down is happening. Once it starts, then go into the slow and strong setting. This will optimally remove the milk during this let down phase (also called milk ejection phase!) If you are sitting at your pump for 30 minutes and nothing comes out, this stimulation mode is where your body might need some help. You may have to try more things to stimulate your breasts to have that let down. If you are stressed, sick or separated from your baby that can make things harder sometimes! For a quick summary to get that let down check out the "10 Ways to Encourage a Let Down While Pumping" below!
Have suction at the highest level comfortable. If you are experiencing any pain lower suction amount or consider different flange size. (Flange size info listed below!)
Massage breasts during pumping, also called "Breast compressions" or "hands on pumping"
Instead of watching the clock (though that is absolutely a great way to do things, this is just another option!) try to pump to obtain 2-3 "let downs". This could happen in 5 minutes or this could happen in 30! And that could even change on a daily basis. If you turn on the pump and just keep it in one setting for X number of minutes, you are missing an opportunity! Like stated in #4, start pumping in the "fast mode" of whatever pump you are using, then the milk begins readily flowing in a "let down" and then you go into the "slow mode". Well once this let down slows and maybe even stops, turn it back to the "fast mode" to make another let down happen! It may take a bit longer or be a bit harder. You may have to take a short few minutes break and hand express or massage, you may have to reapply wet heat or use relaxation tips again. Then, once again, when the let down happens go into the "slow mode". Go between these two modes as necessary to get 2-3 let downs during your pumping session!
Hand express for a few minutes after pumping
Ensure you're pumping at least 8-10 times a day and it is recommended at least one time per day to "Power Pump". For maximum supply, it is ideal to pump at least once throughout the night. More often may be required depending on supply needs.
Are your pump/ pump parts still working right? The different pump machines and associated parts all have different rates at which things should be replaced. Check with your insurance company as lots of them will cover replacement parts every certain amount of time! Check the link below for a summary of all the different replacement rates of pumps/parts.
IMPORTANT NOTE: With some lactating parents, this process in increasing milk supply can be very quick. With most it can take 3-5 days for your body to readjust baseline of how much milk you're producing. During this time, try your best not to stress and take care of yourself. Sleep, eat nourishing foods, get rest when you can. Ask for help and ignore what you can't get done right now. You're doing A LOT right now feeding your baby and literally changing your biochemistry! It's a lot of work!
INFORMATION AND RESOURCES:
Paced Bottle Feeding to make sure your baby won't get "lazy" at the breast/chest!
Alternative Feeding Methods (Syringe, Cup, Spoon) if you're concerned about bottle confusion or your baby is having difficulties with bottle feeding.
How often should I replace my pump/pump parts?
From Exclusive Pumping
(Disclosure: MotherLove is a company not sponsored or associated with QAHLS. They sell breastfeeding supplements. Personally, we at QAHLS do not universally recommend use of breastfeeding supplements, but this information is a great summary of the topic at hand!
Spectra has a great photo here exhibiting proper size
Pumpin Pals are a really great tool to increase comfort while pumping (their flanges are silicone based). They can replace your current flanges OR be put inside of your existing flanges if you have very elastic breast tissue and even though it seems like you might need a smaller size, no matter how many sizes you go up, your nipple conforms to the bigger flange and it becomes painful! Here's a little more about them from ExclusivePumping.com, a terrific resource for pumping! (Another bonus is I've heard their customer service is amazing!)
Making milk come out with your hands only. Tends to have fattier content and some lactating parents even are able to express more volume than with the electric pump. Depends on technique and preferences.
Really terrific video step by step of hand expression technique
Hands on pumping, using breast compressions to obtain more milk:
SUPPLIES THAT MAY HELP:
Hands free pump bra:
Hands free "bra" that can be used with any breast size including very large breasts and is highly portable
There are many different brands, I don't have a preference personally! If you'd like to save money (which I always do!), don't get one with a base or suction cup, just keep an empty coffee mug handy and that will make sure your precious liquid gold won't get spilled or toppled by busy baby hands when you set it down!