Recently, I was working with a mom who told me I had to write this blog for other postpartum mothers because my suggestions helped her when she was trying to figure out the art of pumping. She practically begged me to write this for you, because my comfort tips for breastfeeding and pumping have been so helpful.
This mama was four weeks postpartum and had started pumping to build a supply of breast milk to use when she returns to work. I went over to visit and she mentioned pumping wasn’t going well. The first thing she told me was she was not getting “very much” milk out of her breasts when she pumped. We chatted a bit more and made sure she wasn’t having any technical issues like pump sizing and mechanics. So, I gave her the following tips for a successful pumping experience. I hope they will be helpful to you, too.
1. Define How Much Milk
A baby’s tummy at 4 weeks old is the size of an egg. It really doesn’t take much for a baby to drink and be full. So, it is important to define “not much.” Most moms don’t shoot waterfalls of milk out of their nipples – especially when pumping. If you are pumping and getting an ounce or so at a time that is is a decent amount. Ideally, over time the amount increases based on supply and demand. If you are getting a drop or two or nothing at all, then we will continue our troubleshooting and perhaps talking to a lactation consultant would be beneficial.
2. Pumping is Sexy – Set the Mood
Your mental head space matters. So set the mood. Queue Al Green. Think about it like this. Your partner wants to have sex but how well does that work when you aren’t in the mood? If you are like me, not well. You work up to being turned on, right? Well, pumping is the same way. You can’t just grab your flanges and strap them on – at least not at first.
Foreplay, bring on the foreplay: get comfortable, relax, and get yourself mentally prepared. You can’t rush the process, ladies. Light a candle. Turn on some soothing music. Grab a snack and a some nursing tea. Pick an environment where you feel safe and happy. If possible, pump while gazing into your babies eyes. Smell his head. Hold her tiny fingers. Caress his toes. But if holding your baby while pumping is not an option, think happy thoughts about your baby. Smell your baby’s blanket. Look at pictures or videos of your baby that make you feel all the feels.
3. Get Cozy, Before you Pump
Getting cozy helps to set the mood. See what I’m doing here? Look at this it way, bathroom sex – we see it in the movies and it looks amazing, but have you ever really had great bathroom sex? No, because sex in the bathroom isn’t sexy. I can’t even think about my leg brushing up against a toilet and don’t even get me started on all the germs. Well, same goes for pumping. Don’t pump in a bathroom or in some uncomfortable chair. Pump in a place that makes you feel good. Accepted. Secure. Maybe even in the same place you are breast feeding your baby now.
One of my favorites places to pump is the tub. Fill the tub with warm water, add some bubbles, make yourself a nice hot cup of tea or a cold drink, and dump those lavender smelling bath salts into your water. I want you calm and relaxed and if you like being in the tub on the regular – then pump in the tub. The point is to pump where you are comfortable and can relax. And here’s one other secret – you can breastfeed in the tub, too. Try it today!
4. Satisfy Your Senses
Let’s address the five senses.
Sight: Are you looking at the dirty dishes that have been sitting in the sink for three days? Are you fixated on staring down the over flowing trash can wondering if it’s about to come alive and empty itself? If you answered yes, change locations immediately. Get yourself somewhere with a pretty view or somewhere that is not going to distract from your relaxation. And if you prefer to be on your phone while pumping be mindful about what you are watching or reading or who you are texting.
Smell: Is it something good? No? Well get your support person into the room immediately and lets get that odor nipped in the bud. If you like to diffuse some oils, do so. Sometimes even just opening a window to get some fresh air flowing into the room can be nice. Or make some toast, that always smells up the house in a good way – just don’t burn it. (Hint: toast can be made one handed.)
Tactile: Are you warm enough? Grab your fuzzy snuggie and some comfy socks if the answer is no. Are you too hot? Put a fan in the room or crack the windows. Does the place you are sitting feel good to your body? If not, change it up.
Taste: When was the last time you ate? Are you hungry? Are you thirsty? Do you need something sweet? Have your partner or doula bring you a snack. And please promise me you are drinking lots and lots of fluids! Keep some snacks (that you can eat single handed) by the breastfeeding and pumping area.
Sound: Are you distracted by chaos and noise? Is your baby crying? Crying was the biggest buzz kill of all for pumping (and sex, too) for me. Seriously, lessen the audible distractions and stressful sounds as much as possible. It’s business time.
Set yourself up for success. The more senses you satisfy the better pumping is going to go.
5. Pump When Baby Breastfeeds
The majority of us have two nipples. If it’s an option (and works for you and baby and your provider) pump from one side while you are feeding the baby on the other side. Switch sides at the next feeding. Put baby on the other side and pump from the side baby ate from at the last feeding. If your baby eats on both sides during each feeding do the same thing but switch the baby and the pump mid way through.
6. Pump Different Times a Day
Mothers typically make the most breastmilk in the mornings. Experiment with time of day. Pump at different times. Track when you get the best results. Do you collect more milk first thing in the morning, or the afternoon? Does your energy level get in the way of your milk pumping? If so, pump when you have more energy and focus.
7. Get Support
When I say “get support,” I’m not talking about a supportive bra (though you do have to take care of the boobers. But that is a blog topic for another time.) I’m talking about making sure you have a good support system. Please reach out for help. There are so many options for help. And many are free or at little cost.
- Contact me! I’m not kidding. I am here for you.
- Hire a postpartum doula for some added support, nurturing and education. A doula can also help you with the steps listed above, including not burning your toast.
- If you are in Northern Colorado check out the resource directory on my website
- Reach out to your medical providers or local lactation consultant. Sometimes these resources are even free.
- Talk to your partner. Communication with your partner during this time is crucial for making sure needs are met.
There is so much help out there, please don’t suffer.
I hope you will find these comfort measures helpful. I fully realize with the demands of motherhood and living your life you may not be able to follow every step each time you pump. Do what you can. Do whatever your best is at the time. As always, no guilt. No stress. And no beating yourself up. Keep an open mind, mama, and stay open to trying something new.
The fine print: I am not a lactation consultant or medical provider. I am a birth, postpartum and bereavement doula and I offer coaching and education to mothers. Some of these mothers are breast feeding and my discussions with them come from a comfort and emotional support perspective. Always consult a lactation specialist or your medical provider if you have questions.
I want to hear from you! Tell me in the comments below your tips for making pumping and breastfeed a better experience.