I am not an expert. I’m not a Lactation Consultant (though I have found most LC’s to be less than super helpful about the practicalities of exclusive pumping). I’m just a mom who’s been doing this for about 6 months now.
And most of this information is stuff I found elsewhere, or stuff that was told to me by others, most notably Megan G and Sarah C. This is a random collection of information.
- Personally, I have to pump at least once, preferably twice, overnight. Prolactin levels are evidently higher overnight, plus not having those long stretches without emptying my breasts help keeps my supply up. Women who are not constantly tottering on the edge of not having enough milk can probably drop one or even all overnight sessions.
- If I don’t get a certain minimum amount during the 3 or 4 AM session, and if my breasts still feel full but nothing more is coming out, I will stop after 30 minutes, sleep for another 30 minutes, and pump again for another 30 minutes. If I need to, I’ll do this again.
- Hand express after pumping to get the rest of the milk out. This was a game changer for me. I can sometimes get as much as 30-50 ml more by hand expressing.
- My detailed records are my best friend. Not everyone has to keep a spreadsheet and make charts with their pumping data, but it would be useful to most people to track when they pumped, how long they pumped, and how much they got. Over the course of a week or two, you can start to notice trends.
- Massage and compress while pumping, take a break while pumping to massage, and massage before pumping.
- Pump in the car! I mean, you’re just sitting there anyway, right?
- Zone out. Don’t look at the bottles, think about how much you’re getting, etc. Sleep if you can. Watch NetFlix, knit. I sometimes read to my kids, or we do some schoolwork. I sit on the bed and play with Teddy. ANYTHING except think about pumping. All the advice you read for Pumping At Work moms is to picture your baby, picture milk flowing, picture water fountains, think about your baby nursing, etc. Most of the EP moms I’ve talked to say that this does NOT work for them. Thinking of my baby, my milk, etc., probably just triggers deep emotions of sadness over the fact that I’m not nursing him, and that doesn’t lead to easy let-downs. I just don’t think of it.
- Try longer sessions. LC’s consistently suggest that pumping sessions should only last 20 minutes. As you get accustomed to pumping, you can bump that up and get multiple let-downs. I was a one-let-down-per-session girl when I was just pumping 20-30 minutes at a time. If I go 60 minutes, I usually get 3-4. And my breasts did NOT protest and move to a new state like I thought they might.
- Get a good pump. Hospital grade. Rent one first if you want, then do the math on renting vs buying. I did not rent one, I just bought what I had used in the NICU because I already knew I liked it, and it was cheaper, over the course of a year, to buy.
- If keeping your baby on breastmilk is important to you and you’re struggling, find some lactating friends and see if they’ll pump a bit for you.
- It is somewhat normal for your nipples to look swollen and misshapen after you pump. It doesn’t happen to everyone, evidently, but don’t be alarmed at how your boobs look when you take the pump off.
I personally have the most success with MANUAL means of increasing my supply. Pumping more often, pumping longer, power pumping (10 on/10 off for an hour), pumping 10 minutes every 30-60 minutes around the clock for a day or two, etc. When I start having low supply, I START addressing the problem by pumping every hour during the day and making sure to be diligent about getting up at night. I do NOT get discouraged when those pumping sessions don’t yield much milk – they are merely putting in an order.
Then I add supplements.
Teas have never done much for me, even fresh herb teas.
However, placenta pills (from my placenta) have been useful. Fresh fenugreek (buy the seed and crush it and put it in capsules). Brewer’s Yeast (same thing – put it in capsules). Goat’s Rue, Milk Thistle.