Get Off To The Best Start When Exclusively Pumping
To avoid low milk supply when exclusively pumping you first need to get off to a good start. A milk supply “ceiling” is established in the first two weeks after birth as the mother’s hormone receptors are being established. If there’s not enough pumping during this crucial time fewer receptors will be made active and your maximum milk making potential will be lower as a result.
Exclusively Pumping Schedule
For the first two weeks postpartum, pump both sides every 2-3 hours for 15 minutes or until milk is no longer flowing, whichever is longer. Pump at least twice during the night, however three times is ideal, especially if you have any concerns about low milk supply. You should be getting in at the very least 8 pumping sessions every 24 hours. Aim for 10 sessions in 24 hours. If you have low milk supply concerns, aim for 12 sessions in 24 hours (that’s one session every two hours).
Bag and freeze any milk that baby does not consume. After the two week mark you can gradually begin to cut back on the pumping sessions provided you are pumping more than baby needs. Newborns less than one month old typically consume 15 to 24 ounces per day and 1 to 6 month olds consume about 25 to 30 ounces per day. If you find you are pumping consistently more than what baby needs, skip one pumping session each day for a week and see how your supply and milk output respond. If everything goes well, continue to decrease the amount of time spent pumping at each session or drop one session per week until you are pumping the same amount baby is consuming.
Be Efficient While Exclusively Pumping
If you’re like me, you want to spend as little time dealing with pumping as you can. For that, you need to be efficient. Here are a few tips for pumping as much as you can, as quickly as you can.
- Always use a double pump. Not only is it twice as fast as pumping one breast at a time, but studies show that stimulating both breasts at the same time increases the amount of milk that’s pumped!
- Smart washing: Don’t bother washing all the parts of your pump after every pumping session. Instead, set your whole pumping kit (except the pump and tubes) in the refrigerator after you pump. For your next pumping session simply remove the kit from the refrigerator and either cap the bottles and attach clean ones or continue adding milk to the previous bottles. Be sure to heat the pump flanges in warm water so they’re more comfortable and don’t inhibit your letdowns. Breast milk can be kept in the refrigerator for 7 days so you can easily go an entire day reusing the same pumping equipment. Consider buying seven pumping kits and you can go an entire week before doing any washing. Most pump equipment can be washed in the top rack of the dishwasher, but be sure to check washing directions for each piece. Soft flanges in particular can become misshapen in a hot dishwasher.
- Maximize milk output. Be sure you are using heat, and hand compressions while you are pumping to maximize the amount of milk you are able to get.
- Trigger letdowns early and often. Make sure your pumping environment is comfortable and relaxing. Remove anything that causes tension. Try to remove the abstraction of pumping by pumping near your baby, if possible. If not, pick some of your favorite photos or video of your baby, and put together a slide show set to a couple of pieces of music that makes you tear up. Somewhere Over the Rainbow, or a song from your wedding. Any music that brings up emotions will often trigger a letdown.
Do you know how smells can trigger memories and feelings? You can use that to your advantage to trigger a letdown. Try holding a blanket, or clothing of baby’s (that hasn’t been washed) close to your face as you pump.
Create a pumping kit to help trigger emotions which will help trigger additional let-downs.
Most pumps have a let-down cycle at the beginning where the suction is different – much like baby’s when they are trying to elicit the let-down. Once the flow of milk slows down you can try re-activating the let-down cycle. Some pumps have a button to reactivate this cycle, for others you can simply turn off the pump, you can begin the let-down cycle immediately, or you can wait anywhere from 30 seconds to 2 minutes, and then turn the pump back on again (even if your pump has the button to reactivate the let-down cycle you might try experimenting with taking a short break with the pump off before activating the let-down cycle again).
Finally there’s two massage techniques that can trigger letdowns. If you have someone that you are very comfortable pumping in front of try either of these:
The first massage is a shoulder massage, close to the neck. This is not only relaxing and pleasant, but it also has the possibility of hitting an acupressure point that may trigger an instant letdown. The second massage is done by walking their knuckles on either side of your spine from your neck to your waist. This may give you goosebumps and can trigger a letdown.
Follow these suggestions and you will find success with exclusively pumping!