Pumping Pointers

By Beverly Ann Curtis, APRN, PNP-BC, IBCLC

Here are some of tips to help pumping work for you:

• Use a pump that has a double pumping kit, meaning that you pump both breasts at the same time. This helps raise your prolactin levels, the hormone that helps make milk. Generally, single pumping does not benefit over double pumping.

• Hand expressing near the end of pumping may help remove more milk and build a larger milk yield over time. There is an excellent video from Stanford University that will help to explain the process.

• Don’t wait until the breasts are overly full to pump. When the breast are overly full, many mothers notice they get more milk when they pump for that pumping session. However, when the breasts are repeatedly very full, the milk producing cells are minimized so that the breast then makes less milk. Mothers will comment that when they first waited to pump when they were overly full, they got a large amount of milk but within a few days, it took longer for the breast to get overly full and then less and less milk was pumped.

• To build a milk supply, pump directly after feeding or if the baby is unable to directly breastfeed, pump every 2-3 hours for 15-20 minutes. If your baby is newly born and unable to feed, initiating pumping in the early hours after delivery, as close to delivery as your are able, is beneficial to building a great milk supply.

• Make sure you center the pumping flange on the nipple first before you turn the pump on. This will minimize nipple damage.

• Pain is not gain. Set the pump so that it is comfortable for you. This allows for better milk flow.

• If the pump is causing nipple soreness, you may need a different size flange for your nipple size. Check with a lactation consultant regarding flange sizes and options for pumping.

• You don’t love the pump the way you love your baby, so milk flow may not be the same as when you feed your baby directly from the breast. What you pump is not necessarily a measure of what the baby is eating.

• Remember, if you are using your pump to build a milk supply for your baby, the pump is your friend and will help you to reach your goals.

• Be patient: your body needs time to respond. Be faithful: pump frequently, don’t neglect your pumping. Be accepting: there are times when the effort does not produce the amount desired. Any amount of milk is beneficial for your baby. Discuss pumping with your lactation consultant. There are strategies to help build your supply.

Bev Curtis is the former Executive Director of the Breastfeeding Center of Pittsburgh.