Updated: Sep 16, 2020
Happy Breastfeeding awareness month from Huddle Up Moms! Today’s topic is near and dear to my heart. As someone who desperately wanted to breastfeed and but was unable to do so because my baby was premature and had low tone, I know firsthand the challenging world of exclusively pumping. Exclusively pumping may have been your plan from the beginning, maybe latching your baby did not work well for your family, maybe your baby had issues latching? No matter why you made this decision for your family, providing breast milk for your infant is beneficial and your dedication to this journey needs to be celebrated and applauded. Here are some tips from one of our wonderful lDHn consultants Vicki Snyder.
DISCLOSURE: This information is not meant to be ALL encompassing and should NOT replace seeking advice from your health care provider for specific questions, solutions, and concerns about your health! The purpose of this blog is to spark curiosity and gain some insight into your health.
1. Get a high-quality pump, preferably a hospital-grade pump.
There are a lot of breast pump options on the market and it can be overwhelming when deciding. A hospital-grade pump is one that is preferred by hospital systems and used for rentals/assistance after your delivery. Most hospitals use either the Medela system or the Spectra! Try to see past the glittery allusions of all the freebies some pumps offer and go for the quality. I always encourage parents to look at the specifications (suction level, battery vs plug-in, and replacement parts). Exclusively pumping parents need at least a double electric breast pump. If you need more help, call a lactation specialist for guidance (IBCLC, CBC, La Leche League leader).
FUN FACT: Did you know that most hospitals let you rent a pump?? That’s right ladies! If you are a first-time mom and overwhelmed, call the hospital where you delivered and inquire about renting a pump!
2. Battery Operated is the way to go!
Most insurances will cover a pump that is NOT battery operated but will offer you the option for an extra fee usually around $50. Take our advice, go for the upgrade if you can. Why is a battery so important for a pumping mama?? You would be surprised how challenging it can be to find an outlet, next to a table, next to a chair, near a fridge!!! If you are unable to buy a battery-operated pump, try and look online for a car charger to help in a pinch!!
3. When It comes to boobs and pumping….SIZE DOES MATTER!!! Check your flange size.
Flange sizing can affect your milk production. If possible, try to get sized by a lactation specialist. Flanges should be the smallest size possible that allows the nipple to move freely in the tube. To see if your flange is the correct size, stand in front of a mirror or your partner and look for a small ring of areola tissue around the nipple (about 2-3 mm). If you experience a pinching sensation when pumping, check to make sure your nipple is centered in the flange/tube. If it continues, consider rubbing a very thin layer (just enough to coat) of coconut oil, lanolin, or nipple balm just inside the flange tube. Flange size can change over time, so a decrease in supply means getting rechecked. The standard pump comes with two sizes usually either a 24 and 26 or a 26 and 28. Check out Medela’s super helpful guide here:
4. Store Up on Replacement Parts
Don’t get caught without replacement parts for your pump. The worst feeling in the world is when you want the sweet relief of your breasts emptying only to find you left a piece at home, a part broke off while you are cleaning, or your two-year-old has hidden a much needed piece 😊 Replacement parts are available by all vendors BUT there are also great companies that make cheaper parts that fit perfect. I love MayMom’s brand. Believe it or not, you WILL need to replace your pump parts too! See our guide below.
5. Set a schedule
Newborns eat eight to twelve times a day. You need to pump this often around the clock initially to establish a good milk supply. You are probably thinking about how the heck you pump that much with a newborn. It gets easier and you can do it less frequently when you establish a supply. The number of times varies for each individual as it depends on how much milk your breasts store. Plan to pump for at least 10-15 minutes. After two to four weeks, you can adjust your schedule. If you drop a pumping session and your supply drops, just add a pump cycle back into your schedule. Your body will increase your milk supply based on how frequently you are pumping and how much milk is being expressed.
6. Set up a comfortable area in your home for pumping.
Some people find they can relax and pump more milk in a quiet, darkroom. Others need to be distracted from what is going on to have a let-down. No matter where your pumping area is, make sure you have a comfortable chair and can put your feet up if needed. Have a table nearby. Some people have bottles of water and a snack basket there. Make sure there is somewhere you can sit your bottles of breastmilk while putting yourself back together that they will not fall over.
7. Get a hands-free pumping bra (or 2 or 3).
This allows you to massage your breasts while pumping and can double your output. This also helps with making sure your breasts are emptying well which prevents plugged ducts and mastitis. In between massaging your breast having a hand free means you can change the TV channel, drink water, or eat a snack. Perfect for the multi-tasking mama! Fun fact: Did you ever wonder what the heck that inside strap is for in your nursing bra?? Wonder no more! Most nursing bras double as a hands-free pumping bra. You simply take the strap and lasso it around your phalange! This is a life-changing discovery for most mamas who pump. No Pumping tendonitis elbows here!
8. Make sure to drink enough and eat a well-balanced diet.
I encourage drinking at least one glass (8 oz) of water each time you sit down to breastfeed or pump. If you are like most mamas and sick of plain old water, try switching it up to a Gatorade zero, adding fruit to your water, or buying flavored water. Dehydration can cause a dramatic decline in your milk production. I also encourage parents to keep healthy snacks available. Good fats, such as nuts and avocados, in your diet, can affect the amount of fat in your breastmilk which is important for brain growth. We know most moms want to jump on the weight-loss train but limiting calories or excessive exercise during breastfeeding can lead to a decrease in supply. Pumping and breastfeeding can burn up to 500-600 calories a day!
9. Add a pumping session, galactagogue or both if your supply drops.
Don’t set unreal expectations for yourself!! You will likely have a drop in supply at times or feel like you are not making enough. When this happens add in an extra pumping session or power pump once a day. A power pump is a 60-minute session marathon pump that you can do once a day for several days to increase your supply. You can also add a galactagogue, a supplement to increase your milk supply. There are lots of natural galactagogues. You can also try lactation cookies. If you need further advice or want to inquire about medication, please reach out to a lactation specialist or your health care provider. See pics below for galactagogues, recipes, and instructions on power pumping.
10. Storage Tips
Most milk storage bags are created equal. We also encourage you to buy in bulk as you will need quite the number of storage bags if you are exclusively pumping. Always label your bags with the number of ounces and dates. Labeling will make your defrosting life a lot easier. Milk can stay in the fridge up to four days safely but the earlier you can freeze the better. The longer the milk sits the more lipase it will create often giving the milk a sour taste! You have done so much work, you don’t want your baby refusing your milk! Some babies are sensitive to lipase tasting milk, so try and freeze early if you can. To freeze lay flat and create a “packing” system that works for you. Milk can stay in a normal freezer for up to 1 year. BONUS TIP- when we say all bags are created equal, we mean there are no “Perfect” storage bags. Make sure when you seal your bag you test it out to make sure there are no leaks. Whoever came up with the saying there is no use crying over spilled milk has NEVER breastfed, pumped, or had one of their milk bags leak!!
Check out these storage guidelines and times from @KellyMom. To download a quick reference card to keep on your fridge, click HERE.
You are doing an amazing job! No matter how you chose to feed your baby, you are making it work girl!
Pat yourself on the back.
Victoria Snyder has been working in lactation support for 20 years. She started as a La Leche League leader and was a WIC peer counselor before becoming an IBCLC. She is also a registered nurse and will be graduating this fall with her certified nurse midwifery and women’s health nurse practitioner degree from Georgetown University. Vicki also has worked in perinatal education teaching childbirth, breastfeeding, infant safety/CPR, and newborn care.