[dropcap]C[/dropcap]alling all pumping mamas! Whether you’re pumping a lot or a little, did you know there might be a few ways to make pumping milk for your baby more comfortable and more productive?
Through my own experience of pumping for hundreds and hundreds of hours and lots of trial and error, here’s what I’ve learned. I hope these tips and tricks help make your pumping experience a little better!
1. STOP WHAT YOU ARE DOING and make sure you’re using the right size breast shield.
With my second kiddo, I realized I was using a shield that was WAY too big. I downsized. Still too big. Downsized again, still too big. Third try was the charm. Results: pumping that was more comfortable and productive.
Breast shields can range from 15mm to 36mm. They are NOT one size fits all. And your nipples might not be the same size either, so you might even need two different size flanges!
How to get the right fit? Measuring your nipples can help, but for me it came down to trial and error (which meant ordering a few different sizes from Amazon) to find the one that was right for me. Some time and money spent, yes, but it was totally worth it.
2. MIX and MATCH your pump parts
If you’ve pumped for more than one kid, you might have a surplus of parts, possibly from a pump you are no longer using. (Did you know that most breast pumps are designed to be used for only about a year?)
Good news! Some pump parts are interchangeable between pump brands. For instance, you can use the yellow Medela valves on your Spectra pump (or vice versa). And some women find they prefer one valve over the other because they are easier to clean or seem to give better results.
There are also converters that allow you to mix and match some parts that aren’t naturally compatible. So, if you love your Spectra pump, but have piles of Medela parts in your basement (like I do), you can still use the Medela parts on your Spectra with the help of a converter set.
I’ve also found that third party parts (from companies like Nenesupply and Maymom on Amazon) work just fine (and can be cheaper than their brand name counterparts), so don’t be afraid to give those a try if you need to order replacement or extra pump parts.
There are a couple pumping accessories that I can’t live without: a pumping bra and some coconut oil. A pumping bra is essential for hands-free pumping. And besides moisturizing your hands while you pump, a tiny bit of coconut oil inside your breast shields can make pumping a touch more comfortable.
Another accessory to add to your routine: photos of baby or an article of clothing or blanket that smells like baby (the more spit up the better, ha ha!). While there doesn’t seem to be concrete evidence that this increases milk output, a lot of moms find that smelling something that smells like baby or looking at pictures or videos of their little one seems to help with pumping, especially to encourage let down of milk.
4. EXPERIMENT with your pump settings and pumping techniques
With pumping, things are never one size fits all. What it takes to have the most comfortable and productive pumping experience will vary widely between women. So, it’s always worth trying a few new things–or even a different pump brand–to see if they help improve your experience. Here are a few things to consider:
- Change Your Settings
While every electric breast pump is a little different, most have a variety of pump settings. It’s tempting to settle into a routine with your pump, but it’s worth playing around to see what works best for you. You may even benefit from changing settings mid-pump. Forget the “rules,” just use your pump how it’s most comfy and productive for you. For instance, I find that the “massage” setting on my Spectra (which is just intended to stimulate letdown) is the most productive setting for me, so I stay there for my entire pump session. Specifics aside, fiddle around with those settings to see what’s right for you.
- Hands-on Pumping
Essentially, this involves massaging your breasts while you pump (you will definitely want a pumping bra for this). Studies have shown that a hands-on approach can increase breastmilk output during a pumping session. Here’s some more info, or Google “hands on pumping” for more specifics.
- Power Pumping
Power pumping isn’t meant to replace your regular routine, but it’s a way to trick your body into making more milk. Basically, power pumping is doing a few short pumping sessions in a set amount of time, with short breaks between sessions. You can read more about it here. The idea behind it? Power pumping is a way to imitate what babies do when they are cluster feeding and trigger the body to produce more milk.
This is easier said than done, but try to relax during your pump sessions. Finding something fun to do (Schitt’s Creek binge, anyone?) and perhaps a little treat (something sweet or a cup of tea) can help turn pump time into self-care time, especially if you are pumping while you are away from your baby and other kids.
I’ve seen some research that shows that doing relaxation or meditation exercises while pumping can result in more milk output. There are lots of resources for this online–they often include visualizations of waterfalls or rivers, metaphors for an abundant milk flow.
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Pumping mamas, I hope my tips and tricks help. And I know that some of you have your own hacks to share. Please (pretty please!) share them in the comments below.