As a brand new mom to my first child, now 5, I suffered a lot of common breastfeeding ailments. Sore cracked nipples, engorgement, thrush, etc. With the help of a fantastic lactation consultant and plenty of advice from other moms, I was able to overcome those early difficulties and settle into the groove of nursing my newborn.
When it came time to start using a breast pump, however, advice was not as easy to come by. It was crucial that I make it work, though, because I was returning to work part-time and needed to express milk for my husband to feed while I was away. I figured it out eventually, but some help would have been nice.
If you are new to pumping or will eventually be pumping, here are eight pieces of advice to keep in mind.
- Choose the right pump for your needs–This one is probably the most important. You won’t be successful at pumping if your pump is incapable of meeting your needs. I started out pumping just a couple of times per week and the inexpensive single pump I had was fine for that. But when my milk supply suddenly dropped and I was constantly pumping to bring my supply back up, the cheap pump couldn’t keep up. I replaced it with an Ameda Purely Yours, which I bought through my lactation consultant and was very happy with its performance. If you’re returning to work full time, be sure to get the double electric pump to save time. If you’re a stay home mom pumping infrequently, you could probably get by with a cheaper pump or even a good quality manual pump.
- Get comfortable–Pumping takes time, so make sure you have a comfortable place to sit that is not too hot and not too cold. If your baby is napping, turn off the monitor so you aren’t distracted. Have a drink or a snack handy if you need one, and make sure you have something to do. I used to catch up on TV or read magazines while I pumped. And be sure to visit the bathroom first!
- Check your pump parts frequently–If you feel like you have milk to express, but nothing is coming out, check the valves and connections on your pump. With repeated use, some parts will wear out and can change the effectiveness of your pump. At one point with my son, I knew I was full but wasn’t able to express much milk. When I changed the valves, suddenly I was able to express milk again. Routinely inspect your pump when cleaning it to to make sure it’s in good working order.
- Consider herbals for increasing your milk supply–If you are a working mom and are pumping to store milk for your childcare provider to feed, consider using herbal supplements to increase your supply. You can find a list and helpful tips at Kellymom.com.
- Check your suction–If the pump isn’t correctly positioned on your breast, you won’t be able to express milk and you can even injure your breast. Read the manual for your pump for suggestions. You should feel a definite suction of the flange to your breast when the pump is turned on, and your nipple should be pulled into the neck of the flange. If you don’t see and feel this, you don’t have enough suction. Turn the pump off and reposition, and if that doesn’t work, check your pump to make sure it is assembled correctly and everything is working.
- Encourage letdown–Pumping is hard if you are stressed or worried about not being able to pump enough. Try to relax and concentrate on your baby and how much you love him. Having a photo or a blanket with his scent on it can help. You could also try a lavender scented neck wrap while pumping.
- Keep in mind the last time you pumped or fed your baby–If it’s only been an hour since you nursed your baby, don’t be surprised if you aren’t able to express a lot. If you are working, try to pump at frequent intervals to avoid engorgement.
- Have reasonable expectations–Even the best pump is not as efficient as a baby. With the right tools, you can be successful at expressing milk, but it takes effort and not every mother is able to pump enough to exclusively feed breastmilk. Whenever possible, feed your baby from the breast.
Pumping moms, do you have any other tips to add?