Are you afraid that you’re not pumping enough breastmilk for your little one?
When I first went back to work and got into a pumping schedule, I was definitely not pumping enough to keep up with how much Remy was eating and I was starting to panic. I know, I know…formula is not the end of the world. Fed is best, after all. However, in my mind, my personal goal was to breastfeed Remy for 6 months (read: a year lol). Since he was drinking about 12-15 oz while I was at work, I was hoping to match that with pumping.
However, I was only getting about 3-3.5 oz with each pump session and I was pumping 3 times at work, totaling about 9-10.5 oz! Imagine how worried I was that not only could I not build a small freezer stash, I wasn’t even a “just enougher”, a mom that pumps just enough for her baby; no more, no less!
So I started researching on ways to pump more milk – there are tons of resources out there! And I experimented with a lot: the teas, the vitamins, the sports drinks. But at the end of the day, here’s what helped me the most in my pumping journey and now allows me to pump about 4.5-6 oz per session! Our breastfeeding adventure is still going strong at 6 months and has allowed me to build a freezer stash of ~1200 oz, some of which I have donated to other mom and babies!
1. Drink, drink, and drink even more!
Water, that is! Did you know that breastmilk is 88% water?! So it makes sense that if you are well-hydrated, you set yourself up for success when pumping. In fact, your breastfeeding station should have an oversized water bottle to help remind you to stay hydrated.
Honestly, I think drinking a lot of water has helped me the most in ensuring that I’m pumping enough breastmilk for Remy. I drink about 150-180 oz of water a day! Yes, that is a lot. And yes, I do have to pee. A LOT! But I do notice a difference when I’m dehydrated vs. well-hydrated. I even have an app to keep track of how many glasses of water I drink per day.
When in doubt, if you think you drank enough water, drink more!
2. Eat like there’s no tomorrow
You’ve probably heard by now that you can burn 300-500 calories a day when breastfeeding/pumping! Make sure that you’re replacing these calories and then some. You’re probably starving anyways! Honestly, I eat about 6 times a day, but ensure to include healthy options, such as whole grains and lots of fruits and veggies. However, I sneak in the occasional Double Stuf Oreo (my favorite) or a few pieces of lactation brownie boobie bites a couple of times a day to up the calorie count.
3. Pump it up
Okay…I’m so embarrassed to say…but I was not using my breast pump correctly…for the first 6 months. I know, I know! It’s crazy to think I was using it wrong for so long. But, I was still getting milk, so I didn’t realize that something was off. Using your pump correctly will ensure that you empty your breasts as much as possible, which will signal to your body that you need more milk. Nothing empties your breast best like your baby, but you can maximize how much milk you pump by playing with your pump settings.
For my Spectra S1, I start off in massage mode for about a minute. When I see some drops of milk start to come in and feel my let down, I switch to expression mode. As the milk droplets start to slow down after a few minutes, I switch back to massage mode until I get another let down then switch to expression mode. I keep repeating until about 20 minutes is over. Using this method, I usually get 2-3 let-downs in one pump session.
I would recommend reading the manual and watching YouTube videos that are specific to your pump BEFORE you use it. Don’t be like me and not know how to use your pump correctly for the first 6 months. 🙂
4. Flange Size Matters
When you first get your breast pump, you are probably overwhelmed by all the little and foreign-looking pieces that you will get to know on an intimate level over the better part of a year. So you probably just attach everything, read the manual and start pumping away, right? But did you know that the flanges come in different sizes? I didn’t either! I just assumed what came with my pump is what I’m supposed to use.
It should come as no surprise that we are all made differently – nipples included! So OF COURSE, it makes sense that the flange that you get may not be the one for you. A correctly sized flange will make not only make pumping more comfortable but will maximize how much you pump.
The inner diameter of the flange should be 2-3 mm larger than your nipple after a pumping session. The reason why we measure after pumping is that the nipple swells and the amount of swelling is different for each woman! There should be free movement of your nipple during pumping, but there should be little to no suction of the areola into the flange tunnel.
Here are the steps on measuring your flange size:
- Using a ruler or piece of string, measure the diameter of your nipple in millimeters (mm). Be sure not to include the areola!
- After measuring, add 3-4 mm to find your flange size.
Be sure to measure both nipples as nipple sizes vary. You may end up with different-sized flanges!
5. Give your boobs the spa treatment
Who doesn’t love a good massage? I’m sure your boobs wouldn’t mind one hehe. Seriously, though. Before you pump, get your juices flowing and ducts open by massaging your breasts for a few seconds. Then, while you are pumping, help your boobs out a little by doing some hand massaging.
Focus on different parts here and there, even up to your armpits (did you know you have ducts all the way up there?)! You’ll notice that your milk may come out in spurts when you are in a certain section. Once that spurt stops, move to a different area and so on.
Finally, after you are done pumping, I recommend doing some hand expression to fully empty your breasts of what your pump couldn’t get out! Studies show that women who combine hand massaging and expression with regular pumping can get as much as 50% more milk than just pumping alone!
6. Don’t look down!
This one seems silly, but while you’re pumping, just forget about it! Continue to massage, of course, but put a Netflix show on (an episode of Friends is the PERFECT length) or curl up with a good juicy book. Even better, watch videos of your little one cooing and smiling. Anything to get your mind off of how much you’re pumping (or not pumping).
If you’re constantly looking at your pump or collection bottles, you’ll enter a vicious cycle of worrying that you’re not pumping enough and you’re not pumping enough because you’re worrying. Get out of that cycle! Use this pumping time as time for yourself and relax. You deserve it, mama.
7. Take back the power!
Producing milk is all about supply and demand. The best thing to do to increase your supply is to latch baby on demand. Another way is to mimic cluster feeding by power pumping!
Power pumping is also very helpful if you have a slacker boob. If you notice one side produces less than an overachiever side, simply power pump the slacker side. This will signal that side to make more milk and hopefully even out your sides.
Power pumping goes as follows:
- 0:00 – 20:00: Pump
- 20:00 – 30:00: Rest
- 30:00 – 40:00: Pump
- 40:00 – 50:00: Rest
- 50:00 – 60:00: Pump
If you need a boost in your supply, power pump once per day for 3-5 days in a row. You will be telling your body, “Hey! I need more milk here!”. I usually power pump on the weekends after Remy is asleep to kind of “maintain” my supply. Just pop in a good TV show/movie and relax for the next hour. 🙂
Maximize Your Breast Milk Output
These are all the tips that have helped me make the most out of each pump session so far in our breastfeeding journey! We have even pumped enough to donate breastmilk to families in need! <3
What has worked for you? I would love to hear from you! Of course, if you have any major concerns with milk production or nursing, please reach out to your lactation consultant!
Check out these other articles about breastfeeding and pumping!