Having a breast pump at home can make it possible for a breastfeeding mother to increase their milk supply. Its nice to have some extra milk in the freezer for a date night or you might be going back to work after maternity leave.
Keep in mind that the breast and your baby have a natural communication that is based on supply and demand. This means that your breast will increase its milk supply when your baby breastfeeds more rigorously. It also means that the demand will decrease if your baby is not nursing.
Consequently, skipping breastfeeding sessions for a date night or even to get a nap in will affect your overall supply. But this is no reason for concern. You have to do you!
Just make sure if your baby is fed with a bottle, that you are pumping during that time.
During the first 6 months of Luca’s life I was attending a mom’s group. It was led by a nurse at my local hospital. I was very lucky in that this woman was well education in breastfeeding and pumping.
At one of the meetings she taught me a valuable lesson (in by opinion). When pumping you can have several let down in one session! (More on that down below).
I had several occasions during the first year of by son’s life where I needed to be away from him. I was teaching a couple days a week and was able to pump at school. Our baby would drink milk from a bottle at home with his dad. Overall though I’ve been very fortunate to be able to breastfeed on demand. As of October 2020 we are going strong at 2.5 years.
So if you are lookIng for advice to increase your supply, using a breast pump is a great tool. You need to use it correctly though in order to see results. I found that using a breast pump correctly has not always been very obvious.
Pumping is Not the Same as Breastfeeding
Many mothers get worried if they pump and don’t see a lot of milk. They worry that this is an indication of low milk supply and that their baby’s going hungry while breastfeeding.
The reality though is that the breast pump is not the same as breastfeeding. Pumping is not a precise indication of how much milk your baby is getting at the breast. These are two different systems. Often your baby is getting more milk while nursing than what you are pumping with a breast pump.
There are many breast pump designs on the market. Due to the variety to choose from it’s fair to assume one might work better than another. If you are not getting enough milk while pumping, don’t immediately think that it’s you.
First check that you have a breast pump that is a good fit. Also ensure you are using it correctly. For example, if the flange’s are too small or too large for your breasts, it will not pump currently.
Don’t Stop at the First Letdown
When I was attending a baby group at my local hospital, the nurse there shared some revealing information. This piece of advice changed my pumping journey forever: YOU SHOULD BE HAVING SEVERAL LET DOWNS IN A SINGLE SESSION.
That is right ladies. We often pump until we have one letdown. The milk flows and when it starts trickling again we call it a day. The reality is that you can produce close to double the amount of milk during a session. All you need to do is stay around for a second let down.
Trying for a second letdown will also increase your milk supply. You are allowing your breast to fully empty which produces more milk. The more milk you produce during your pumping sessions, the more often it will expect a similar demand.
Pump After Breastfeeding
Making sure your breast fully empties is important. This tells your brain to produce more milk next time. Sometimes our baby will doze off or get distracted during nursing sessions. Subsequently, the breast does not empty completely and next time it will produce less milk.
Keep in mind that the shift in supply is a gradual occurrence, that is why consistency and patience is key. This methods helps If you are concerned about your milk supply and want to increase it with a breast pump.
Pumping directly after nursing your baby is a good strategy. It can be a fairly quick and effective way to ensure that milk continues to properly flow. Make sure you have the pump conveniently located in order to use it while your baby is still in arm.
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Invest in a Double Electric Breast Pump
Some breast pumps come with a double pump like the Ameda Finesse Double Electric Breast Pump. This is the one I used and would recommend it to all other mothers. (On a side note I still use the little insulated storage bag it came with to pack by lunch).
I review the Ameda Finesse Breast Pump Here.
Check with your insurance provider which breast pumps you are eligible for. I received mine for free through BCBSIL PPO back in 2018. You can also buy breast pumps and additional parts on Amazon.
A double electric pump will allow for you to pump both breasts at the same time. Consider this as you’ll reduce the amount of time you spend pumping. (Who wants to pump longer than necessary- am I right?!).
A double pump makes most sense if you are trying to increase supply. When you have a letdown, it happens in both breasts regardless and not just the one that is being stimulated.
This is the reason you leak from the other breast when nursing your baby. (I used the Haakaa to gather excess leakage from the other breast while breastfeeding).
Pump on a Schedule
The best way to increase your milk supply is to ensure that you are pumping regularly. Pumping a bit here and there won’t make a significant different on your milk supply. It can also make it difficult to find the time to pump if not a priority.
For best effect, aim to pump 8-12 times in a 24 hour period for a week straight. It can take several days for your hormone levels to rise and increase its milk production.
Using a breast pump is a tried and proven way to increase a mother’s milk supply. The trick is to make sure you understand how let-downs work. You also have to understand how your pump works to stimulate let-downs. Last, be consistent in your pumping schedule.
Don’t feel discouraged if you don’t see results right away. It can take around a week to see a difference so be patient and continue pumping.
If the correct steps are being followed and you are still not seeing results there is help. Consider contacting a lactation consultant to check for common issues regarding latch.
My go to organization is La Leche League. They are a large and established support group in the field. You can find their chapters almost anywhere around the world.
I wish you the best in your breastfeeding journey.