Driving your pump

Breast pumping can be more like nursing if you approach it similary. Hanging out with mamas on a weekly or daily basis sometimes reminds me of how many gaps there are when we are learning all these new breastfeeding and baby skills. One of them that I see such wide variance in is pumping. In light of this, I thought I would provide a bit of a primer on how to "drive" your pump. I learned much of these tricks from my fantastic mentor Doris Onnis, who you can find to solve your breastfeeding problems at www.lactationRN.com.

First I just have to say that these are not intuitive techniques. No one is taught how to operate a pump in college (at least there are no programs I know of!) so don't be upset if you are not an expert on this. I'll  share just a little evidence-based info and what I have learned from mamas who do a lot of pumping (and know all the tricks).

#1 Make sure you pump is working right. If you have a hand me down pump, check all the parts for wear and tear and replace as needed. You might even want to get the pump checked for suction at your local lactation clinic.

#2 Make sure the fit is right for you, both in parts and in usage. Hand pumps are great...for some moms. But most moms who are away from their babes for more than a few hours a week need a double electric pump that makes quick work of milk extraction during their short breaks. And the flanges have to fit (they make 6 different sizes now). Check with your lactation clinic for resizing info.

#3 Use the pump as much like a baby as possible. Meaning that you have to mimic how the baby eats so your body responds to it.  If you don't have the advanced (new pre-programmed version) start with the speed quick and suction light. Once the milk starts to drip, move to a slower speed and higher suction. (The newer and/or hospital rental pumps do this for you.) Here's the kicker. You might have to go through this cycle a few times to get all the milk out. Some women only need one, but most of the mamas who are working for more milk use multiple cycles of this quick and light moving to slow and higher suction throughout their pumping session.

And lastly,

#4 Use your 5 senses to try to imagine nursing your baby. It is hard to hormonally respond to a black bag who wants more milk. So smell your baby's sweet smelling blanket, look at photos of your baby, listen to recordings of your baby cooing (or crying), drink water from your 'nursing' water bottle, and use your hands to massage out some of the (sometimes stubborn) fatty milk (often called hindmilk). My friend Meg Stalnaker even suggests to name your pump "a cute name" so you can have warm feelings towards it while you sit together and express milk. (Meg teaches a new Breastfeeding for the Working Mom class at Providence in Sept of 2015...check it out at https://weblink.providence.org/weblink/clRs2.do;jsessionid=52FC60858282FA73340132E7B91F60FD.)

Here is a great little video for mamas who are working to increase their pumping output:

Hands on Pumping

There is so much more, but this covers many of the things I teach when talking pumps with new mamas. Have something you think is worth adding?