We pump for many reasons, and it’s very common to have a love-hate relationship with it. Here are some tips to help make that relationship more loving than hateful!
As with any of life’s challenges, starting off on the right foot is best. In this case, that right foot is Timing. For whatever reason you choose to start pumping, early and often is key. You will need to begin within the first 6 hours of birth and then continue pumping every 2-3 hours, or 8-10 times in 24 hours. For every baby born you will need approximately 120 minutes per day of good pumping. The first 3-5 days pumping may not be as effective as hand expressing. Stanford University has a great video demonstrating how to hand express effectively. (WMC even uses this video in its breastfeeding education classes.)
Be prepared and create a relaxing and calm environment. Get a comfy chair, have a drink and snack with you, play relaxing music, watch videos of the baby, look at pictures or even have an item that smells like baby close. Think about the future, nuzzling those chubby cheeks, a beach chair by the sea, or anything that is stress free. The key is creating a milk-enhancing rather than stress-inducing space.
Taking care of yourself is just as important as the mental and/or physical space in which you pump, which is why it’s a runner up for second place. Our bodies are designed to take care of number one (you) before taking care of anyone else. Consuming enough calories is major. We burn 500 calories breastfeeding alone, so you will need to consume this plus the average amount to keep with the demand on your body. You are basically still eating for two. Vitamins are essential in growth of mom and baby, so keep taking your prenatal vitamins. Drinking plenty of good fluids is needed as well. Always drink to thirst, and then a little more. Our bodies, even when not nursing, need our weight in ounces divided by two, daily. Meaning, if you weigh 150, you need 75 ounces of water a day, and that’s when you’re just supporting you! It is a great rule of thumb to have a bottle of water when you are pumping. You don’t have to drink milk to make milk. Limit your caffeinated drinks like tea, coffee and sodas, as too much caffeine isn’t good for your supply. If you smoke, it is best to try and quit. If quitting isn’t possible, try to limit the baby’s exposure as it increases the baby’s risk for SIDS. Excessive smoking has also been known to decrease a supply.
Don’t under estimate the power of Skin to Skin contact! Holding your baby with their body against yours, with no clothes or blankets in between, whether you are nursing or not, does a body good. Skin to skin triggers all kinds of feel good hormones to help keep your supply on the right track. It also has numerous benefits for your little squish as well.
Set goals for yourself. Your daily pumping goal should be between 750-800 mls ( 25-27 oz). Research shows milk production at two weeks is an indicator of the breastfeeding outcome. Full milk production is 750-1,035mls ( 25-35 oz) in 24hours.
Lastly, have a plan when it comes to birth control. Pumping alone doesn’t help prevent pregnancies. Birth control containing estrogen can lower a milk supply. Condoms and/or other alternative methods may be a better option during this time.
Know your rights when it comes to pumping and reentering the work force. Going back to work after having your baby is stressful enough. Not to mention adding to that a pumping routine. Knowing your rights going in can go a long way to preserving that peaceful space we talked about earlier.
So with taking care of yourself, creating a milk-enhancing, non-stressing pumping environment and pumping early will often establish and maintain a full milk production with a love relationship instead of a hate relationship!
Michelle is a mother of two, one who didn’t nurse and one who nursed for 15 months. She is a neonatal nurse as well as an IBCLC who enjoys traveling, volunteering for the March of Dimes and spending time with her friends and family in her free time.