Top 10 Tips for Successful Pumping!

For many, many breastfeeding mamas a breast pump is an important tool in developing a successful breastfeeding relationship. Although with it often comes many questions and uncertainties. While I personally have virtually no experience with pumping or bottle-feeding my awesome sister-in-law, Megan, does! I asked Megan if she would share with us some suggestions for using a breast pump. Here are her Top 10 Tips for Successful Pumping:

When I got pregnant with my son I was a year into completing my nursing degree and would have to continue on with school once our baby was born. My goal was for baby to have only breast milk which meant that I would have to pump and that my husband would have to bottle-feed baby while I was at school.  My son is now 11 months old and I have been pumping since he was born. Here are a few tips I have learned during the past year of pumping.

1. Have the right equipment: Find a breast pump that is right for you. I personally like the Medela Pump Backpack. I am able to pump both sides at the same time which makes pumping go much quicker. I also always wear a nursing top under my clothes. That way when I do have to pump I feel more comfortable and am not as self conscious about lifting up my shirt. I also find that if I bring my nursing cover with me I am able to be modest about it and then can pump virtually anywhere there is an available outlet.

2. Find a comfortable space: When I first started pumping (as is the case when I first started nursing) privacy was very important to me. I wanted a place where I was by myself, could lock the door, and could avoid any interruptions. As time went on I realized that no one could see what I was doing and became more comfortable with it. I have even been known to pump in class! But in the beginning I liked the privacy of a locked room, and would even bring my e-reader to entertain myself.

 3. Stay hydrated! : It is just as important to keep hydrated when you are pumping as it is when you are nursing. I try to have a brightly colored water bottle at the nurses’ station so that it always catches my eye when I walk by it.

4. Pump Until You Are Empty: This helps with many things. First you are able to get the most milk out with each pumping time. The pumps try to mimic the sucking of your baby but there is no way for it to do that completely. So sometimes I try to give it a little help. This will also prevent clogged ducts.

 5. Get in the right mindset: I find that when I am pumping if I sit back, relax (which can be very hard during clinicals) and try to think of my son it will help my milk come in when the pumping begins. I try to think of him laying on his side and curling around me. The feel of his soft little skin against mine, and his little hands pulling on my necklace. By then my milk has usually come down and is freely coming out and filling the bottles.

6. Getting a good latch: This is just as important with pumping as it is with breast feeding. If the pump is not centered around your nipple you are not going to get as much milk out. Not to mention the fact that it is going to cause some soreness and pain. So once the pumping has begun you may need to pull it off and re-center it. It makes a funny suction sound but other than that it doesn’t hurt. 🙂

7. Start Early: I started pumping with my little one while we were in the hospital right after he was born. Many hospitals will provide a pump in the room for you, as well as all of the proper tools you will need to get started. Hopefully an on-staff IBC lactation consultant will be available to support you once you express your desire to breastfeed. However this is not always the case. So be sure to ask if these services will be provided when you do a tour of the hospital or are considering a hospital/birthing center to birth at. If you are doing a home birth prepare yourself by purchasing a pump and discussing with your midwife on proper usage. You can also attend a La Leche League meeting (even bring your breast pump along) for some guidance on pumping.

8. Know your rights: As a breastfeeding mother, I am protected by law and am not allowed to be penalized in any way for missing time at work or in class for pumping. Time spent pumping does not count as my lunch break at work nor does it count as a break from class. Make sure that you know the rules and regulations  regarding breastfeeding in your state are so you can exercise your rights.

9. Make it a priority: I know this is hard! You get to work and things start to get busy and before you know it 4 or 5 hours have passed and you don’t know where the day has gone. In this case it may be helpful to set an alarm for yourself. In the beginning I had to pump every 3 hours or I would start leaking on my scrubs. And many times I had to say “I can’t help you now I have to pump but I will help you in 20 minutes when I am done”.

10. Introducing a bottle: This is different for everyone and is entirely up to the family. I was told by our childbirth educator, who is also a certified doula, to wait until our baby was 3 weeks old and had passed his first growth spurt to introduce a bottle. That is what we did and it is what worked well for us, but what works for one does not always work for everyone else.

What helped you be successful with using a breast pump? Would love to hear some more tips from our readers!

-Sarah and Megan 🙂

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