Pumping: Tips For Beginning

Do you express breast milk to feed your little one? Whether you hand express or use a pump, there can be a learning curve as you start out. In today’s blog post, we’re focusing on using a pump.

The La Leche League USA website has a great deal of information about pumping and storing your milk, and we’ve included links to several excellent resources at the end of this post. This blog post contains a few highlights from a recent discussion on the LLL USA Facebook page on World Pumping Day. We asked those who had experience pumping for tips to share with someone who is just getting started on their pumping journey. There were so many excellent ideas, and you can read the conversation in full at www.facebook.com/LaLecheLeagueUSA/posts/5354568944571608.

Make sure you have the right fit.
While you’ll probably get a different opinion about the “best” pump from each person you ask, no matter which pump you select it’s important to make sure the flange fits properly, Joy H. said. “Flange size is one of the most important aspects! It makes all the difference in the world.” (The flange is a funnel-shaped piece of plastic that fits over your nipple and forms a seal around the areola. Your nipple is drawn into the funnel to express milk.)

Not only is the proper fit necessary, but it may be different for each breast, according to Hannah S.

“It’s possible to need a different size flange for each breast, too! Bodies aren’t always symmetrical, I learned”

How do you know that the flange size is correct? La Leche League USA offered this tip on Facebook: “If some of your areola is being pulled into the tunnel of the flange, the flange may be too large. But if your nipple is squashed into the tunnel like a sausage, it may be too small.”

In addition to having the proper fit, Karen C. offered a few additional tips to get started pumping.

“1. Get comfortable and proper fitting flanges. 2. Lubricate the inside of the flange tunnel with coconut oil. 3. Repeat the letdown mode on the pump every 6-7 minutes to stimulate additional letdowns. 4. Do breast compression/massage while pumping. 5. Make sure you are drinking enough water (100+ oz per day). 6. Have realistic expectations for pumping output – 3-4 ounces total per pumping session is very normal.”

Get comfortable.
Your pumping sessions will be much more enjoyable and productive if you are able to get comfortable and feel at ease. Stress can inhibit the let-down reflex, so it’s helpful to make your environment feel as relaxing as possible.

Jackie S. offered a few ideas that helped her to relax during her pumping sessions.

“Stress equals no milk. Try to relax. Breathe. Hold/smell your baby’s onesie. Get a portable back massager if you have to. Make sure you’re warm enough and the room is warm enough.”

Belle B. agreed that having something that reminds you of your baby is very helpful when encouraging let-down.

“Look at pictures and videos of your baby when you pump. It helps your let-down seeing all the cuteness. Also, don’t look at the bags. It will stress you out if you don’t see them filling up.”

For many who are sitting down to a pumping session, it helped them to relax and to pass the time with a favorite show or music.

Melissa F. shared one way she made her pumping breaks more enjoyable.

“I made playlists that were about 20 minutes long, so I could enjoy my favorite songs and not have to pay attention to the time.”

Not only is it important to be in a good place mentally when you pump, it also makes a difference to meet your physical needs.

Molly G. advised: “Have water and a snack nearby when pumping. I am always thirsty when I pump and super hungry!”

Relaxation techniques, as well as focusing on how to stimulate the hormones responsible for let-down were useful when Kristen E. expressed.

“The oxytocin hormone is responsible for your let-down reflex, so go to a dark, quiet place and use guided imagery imagining waterfalls. If you’re using a pump or hand expressing, massage your breasts and stretch your nipple a little bit first to get the hormones flowing. You can get more milk by doing both breasts at the same time, or nursing baby on one side while you’re pumping the other, or hand expressing in one side while you’re pumping the other.”

Don’t compare.
It’s easy to worry about whether you’re able to express enough milk to meet your baby’s needs. It becomes even more stressful if you want to have a freezer stash on hand. Many who responded urged those new to pumping to avoid the comparison trap.

Emilee Y. found it eased her stress to focus on the amount of expressed milk her baby needed, rather than getting ahead of herself.

“A breast-milk fed child only needs 1-1.5 ounces per hour. A normal output when pumping every three hours is 3-4.5 ounces. I was always intimidated seeing women post (on social media) that they were pumping 10-plus ounces every three hours. Once I came to realize that’s more than baby needs, I was able to relax more.”

Ashley B. voiced her agreement.
“This piece of advice was given to me years ago by a coworker. I’m on my third child and still reminding myself every day that you’re feeding your baby, not your freezer!”

Take care of your equipment.
As with any type of tool or equipment, it’s important to take proper care of your pump and accessories to help ensure it works as efficiently as possible and is sanitary. For an overview of proper pump care, please go to www.llli.org/breastfeeding-info/cleaning-and-sanitizing-pumping-accessories/.

Catie S. noted two tasks in particular that she found especially helpful:
“Replace your pump parts every so often (depending on how often you pump) and ensure your parts are completely dry before putting them back together!”


Please send your story ideas to Amy at [email protected].

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