Pumping advice from an EP mom

With my daughter Lola, I ended up exclusively pumping (EP’ing) for a year after she had serious latch and tongue tie issues from birth. I figured out a lot of tips along the way, and as a result, never had to use formula. I’ve been in touch with many moms to help out with pumping issues and advice, so I compiled a list of tips to pass on because I know there are many others struggling. 

So here we go with some tips…

  • A pump is not as efficient at draining your breasts as your baby, so it needs a little help. It’s not realistic to expect to attach a pump and expect it to do everything you need it to do, you need to give it a hand. Before you pump, massage your breasts from the armpits and all over while moving toward your nipples. The goal is to move the milk back from the ducts toward your nipples to make the pump’s job easier and more efficient. If you have time or it’s convenient, start with a warm compress or shower first. 
  • Most importantly, compress your breasts while you pump! You’ll get more out and will be quicker at getting the job done. 
  • If time allows, also keep pumping a lot longer after you think you’re finished. I typically would pump for 45 min at a time and would have 3 separate let downs. So just when I think I’m outta milk, there they go again. 
  • Use olive or coconut oil as boob lube, great for avoiding friction in the flanges. 
  • Then…even after pumping seemed finished, I would always hand express after pumping and would typically get an extra 1/2 to 1 oz of milk. This is such an important part of pumping, because the more milk you drain from your breasts, the more your body will produce. The pump will only do so much, so by being hands-on by compressing while pumping and then hand expressing at the end, you can dramatically increase your output. Here’s a great video on hand expression technique: http://newborns.stanford.edu/Breastfeeding/HandExpression.html

Increasing your supply…

  • If you want to increase you pump output, do what’s called power pumping. Pump for 10 min then rest for 10 min. Repeat for an hour or longer, which works by mimicking a baby going through a growth spurt or cluster feeding. Occasionally I would sit on the couch at night enjoying a movie while power pumping the whole time.
  • Make sure you drink at least 80 oz of water a day. Also eat oatmeal every day for breakfast. Not sure why this works but women swear by it. I would make a huge double batch of steel cut oats which would last me for about 5 days. Great fiber benefit too. 
  • My lactation consultant had me on fenugreek but also nettle leaf, red raspberry, and brewers yeast. If doing tea, you should drink 3 well brewed cups a day that have been steeping while covered for 15 min. I didn’t always have time for the tea so I would just take capsules everyday. 
  • Always hand express at the end of every pumping session. Take off the pump parts and place the flange directly into the mouth of the bottle for better aim.
  • If you’re struggling with your production, add a pumping session in the middle of the night. There’s something about pumping between the hours of 1-5am when your progesterone levels are highest. When pumping during that time, it really helps stimulate your body to produce more overall. However, it’s not necessary if production is fine, only something to try if you’re struggling.

And my favorite tip…

  • If you’re pumping several times a day at work, you don’t need to wash the pump parts for each use! Breast milk is fresh in the refrigerator for 1 week, so instead of washing pump parts between each use, throw them in a ziplock bag, then discreetly in another bag and store in your fridge at work. This tip changed my life and made the task of EP’ing a little bit more sane. (NOTE: only do this for healthy, full-term babies. Not for preemies staying in the NICU.)

Gear I loved…

  • Invest in a double pumping, hands-free bustier — hands down the best accessory, I would never want to pump without it.
  • If buying a Medela pump, choose the Pump in Style (PIS) model over the pricier Freestyle model. The PIS motor is stronger and better at draining breasts, especially if you’re on the large breasted side.
  • My overall favorite pump is the Hygeia EnJoye — only $300 and is hospital grade, closed loop system (resellable), with a powerful, piston driven motor. If having trouble with your supply, you will want a heavy duty machine like this instead of the Medela Pump in Style.
  • Favorite bottles: AVENT! (http://amzn.com/B001BWRWN4) The reason they’re my fave is because they have a simple 3 piece design (bottle, ring, and nipple) so less dishes to wash. The lid compresses the top of nipple so the bottles are easy to transport, no spacer disk needed like most other bottles. And guess what, you can pump directly into!! Directly fits Hygeia pump, and for Medela pumps, needs a Breast Pump Conversion Kit (http://amzn.com/B00005BXEY). You can also easily store breast milk in the bottles too. Replace nipple with this item (http://amzn.com/B000067QMD) for storage and when ready to feed, swap out with a nipple.
  • Second favorite bottles were Dr. Browns because they fit Medela pumps and can pump directly into.
  • Always use a Stage 1 nipple when bottle feeding no matter how old your child is. Also, instruct caregivers to feed bottle as horizontal as possible, with only a slight tilt so air doesn’t get swallowed. This eliminates gravity forcing the flow of milk too fast which closer mimics the flow rate of breastfeeding.

Please reach out if you have any questions or need any additional advice. I’m happy to help in any way I can!


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