“How do I pump enough for my baby?”

It is the plea of hardworking mothers who slug their pumps with them to work, drop off their babies, and take their breasts along too. How do I pump enough to keep up with my baby when all I have is this machine??

I asked moms this question and got ALL these answers--so clearly there are a lot of different things you can do.

First things first, go and read the first blog about Not Wasting the Milk! If your baby’s caregivers use the milk wisely, you might already be pumping enough. So only use these as you see them helping you.

Here are the tips I heard from successful long term pumping moms in the Portland area.

Get more?

Biggest tip for getting more milk out? Breast compresions! You can see a great video here of how to do them (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Oh-nnTps1Ls) but whatever method you use, do them! They speed up the milk removal, get more volume out, and increase the fat content in your milk making baby more content. It can increase the volume 20-30% and helps to maintain milk supply. So many benefits!

Here is a wonderful video on how to get more in your session by using your hands along with your pump. It's called Hands on Pumping, and you can view the video here: http://newborns.stanford.edu/Breastfeeding/MaxProduction.html

Save time and make more?

Some moms find that in preparing milk for the day while you are away from baby, that pumping one side while nursing the other is an effective way to get more milk while still connecting with and feeding your baby (less time and more fun!). Try it. It takes some advanced skills, but you are a baby juggler. You got this. As one mom said, ‘Two birds with one stone.’

A swaddled baby snuggles with a Portland mama while she pumps
A swaddled baby snuggles with a Portland mama while she pumps

Stay hydrated! You do NOT have to force fluids while you are breastfeeding, however you do have to have water available each time you pump or nurse as you very likely WILL GET THIRSTY.

If you can’t pump much and you have a good supply for baby (or if don’t and are struggling with supply overall) try renting a hospital grade pump vs. just a home use one. Some moms find this boosts the output significantly and gets them to a more sustainable (by baby alone) milk supply. Check hospital lactation clinics, WIC, or Nursing Mother’s Counsel for rental options.

Drive your pump?

Initially taught to me by the famous breast and pump whisperer Doris Onnis of Providence St Vincent’s (yes, she is real! Check out www.lactationRN.com), driving the pump makes a giant difference. Utilizing the stimulation button on your pump is essential for getting the most from your pumping session. Find out more about how to run those cycles here, at least for Medela: http://www.medelabreastfeedingus.com/instruction-manuals

Portland mama pumps hands free
Portland mama pumps hands free

Hands Free Bra

Yes, there is such a thing! If you are pumping more than once in a while, a hands free bra will save your sanity. Zip it up, and FREE YOUR HANDS to feed yourself, do breast compressions, web surf, answer emails, or talk to a friend. Anything but hold your pump parts! It will change your experience. I promise.

Stay warm

They also make awesome nursing tanks that both cover your belly to keep you warm and keep those mama hormones from being interrupted by the chill or self-consciousness we sometimes have as new mamas about our bellies, especially if someone were to walk in on our pumping session. Many local places carry these as well as decent ones at Target.

Distract yourself!

During pumping, distract yourself with reading (it can be mindless drivel…really), catching up on FB, or other web surfing (but maybe stay away from AmazonMom?). This can help relax you and keep your mind off agonizing over each ounce or how much time you are spending at your pump station. Set a timer, and consider getting an app that applauds for you when you are done. It’s worth celebrating.

Newborn baby in NICU while mom pumps breastmilk
Newborn baby in NICU while mom pumps breastmilk

Use your senses!

In addition to looking at photos of baby on your phone, take something that smells like your baby and wrap it around your neck while you pump. Drink out of the same cup that you use at your nursing station. Listen to videos of your baby cooing, laughing, or even crying. This stuff gets your hormones going to help you respond to that not-very-cute pump.

My friend Meg Stalnaker of Natural Latch Lactation Services says to name your pump a cute name, and call it by that name so it helps you to love it!

You can also use this time to check with your care provider to hear your baby’s voice, give them a quick mama love over the phone, or leave a message for your caregiver to play for them.

A Portland mom's pumping setup at home
A Portland mom's pumping setup at home

Pumping porn?

If you have a LONG collection of photos of your baby, scroll through them during your breaks to get all those love hormones flowing…they might just flow right out of your pump!

Try to relax. It is the one point you stop what you are doing and focus on both creating food/love for your baby, but also offering you relief from pressure and angst if you haven’t had the breaks you had hoped for.

Prepared food helps to nourish pumping moms
Prepared food helps to nourish pumping moms

Guess what else helps?

Chatting with a friend, and you guessed, eating! Both of these activities increase oxytocin, the magic love hormone that makes your breasts squirt out milk. Or best; have lunch with a friend who is also pumping! Gold mine.

One tip I’ve only heard once but I bet it will work for others: If you can’t connect with your baby or baby’s care provider, try calling your partner and have them talk lovingly to you. If your partner works with you, ask for a big kiss and snuggle before you head into the pump room. I have seen this work wonders....really.

One last word

Breastmilk is notcalorie consistent. Sometimes you will make watery-looking thirst quenching milk that hydrates and offers baby protein and carbs that their growing bodies need. Sometimes you will make near pats of butter on top of your pumped milk, which is that fat that is so essential for brain function (did you know they do 90% of their head growth year one?). Most of the time it will be a mixture. THIS IS NORMAL. One breast will make more than another, and then sometimes they switch. Totally ok.

Breastfed baby is weighed to see if gain is enough.
Breastfed baby is weighed to see if gain is enough.

Remember that the ounces don’t matter as much as the baby’s growth, diapers, and satisfaction does. It is NORMAL to pump about 3-5 oz between both breasts for normal baby growth (at any age after the first early weeks) due to the calorie differences in milk. (How big a piece of cheesecake can YOU eat anyway?)

It is awesome to see mamas who can pump 10 oz and fill up those giant bottles. But that is like viewing an extreme athlete and then looking around at the rest of us. Not very many women can do that. (If you are, would you consider donating some of that liquid gold to our Milk Bank?)

If you pump 1 oz and can give baby your one ounce of your immunity, vitamins, fat, protein and carbs, you still got this, and research shows that even one ounce for as long as possible in your baby’s life has great value.

Moms, it is hard to pack up your pump and take your breasts back to the office. But most moms look back and love that they were connected to their baby even when they needed to be at work. I hope some of these tips from other moms help you to achieve your goals!