So, you’re officially at the pumping starting line, and there’s a number of reasons you could be here. You may be heading back to work and want to maintain your supply, you could be stimulating more production, you could be collecting to feed a preemie or a baby who didn’t latch, or maybe you’re pumping to relieve the pain of engorgement.
No matter your reason – and it could be a combination of those mentioned – it’s important to start with the basics, whether pumping comes naturally to you or takes a little more work. Burdett Birth Center’s doctors, nurses and lactation consultants regularly walk new moms through the basics of pumping.
First, it’s essential to pick the right pump for your body. In selecting the right breast pump, it’s first worth considering how you plan to use it. A manual pump might be the best option if you only plan to pump occasionally, while you may want to consider a fully automatic pump at work to pump both breasts at the same time quickly. A good pump will simulate, as closely as a machine can, the sucking of a baby.
The initial pumping experiences are usually the hardest, as it takes some time to get used to the process and feeling. One way to create a positive experience is to be sure the breast phalange (shield) is the right size for your nipple and positioned in the right way, as to not cause discomfort or pain. The suctioning should begin to feel natural and after just a couple times will become normal, quick and easy. If it doesn’t, consider a new pump or phalange, and massage the breast before you begin pumping.
When starting out with your pump, begin at the lowest setting. You can increase the levels as you get comfortable, but getting used to the sensations slowly will help you understand what to expect. Once you get into pumping you will find that you might be adjusting the settings during the process to emulate how your nursing baby eats. Don’t be afraid to experiment as this is how you’ll find the method that best works for you.
Some moms prefer to pump by hand versus a pump. Expressing by hand can offer relief from engorgement. While this method is more time consuming, it is a free method and it helps to soothe discomfort. There are various techniques to use, but here’s one common method:
- Use thumb and forefinger to make a “C” shape. Gently squeeze the areola (not the nipple) with the “C” about 2cm away from the nipple.
- Put your fingers together. Don’t press too hard as this will make you uncomfortable. Open and close your fingers while against the areola, gently squeezing, creating a rhythmic pattern around the nipple.
- Don’t be discouraged by the initial amount. It might take a few moments to get going. Keep up the rhythm and milk will come. Be sure to have a clean bottle to catch it. It’s best to use a wide mouthed bottle to get it all.
- If you notice the flow is slowing, try repositioning your hands to squeeze a different part of the breast or change the rotation of your hands.
Mom Tip: You may want to purchase a pumping bra – or make your own with some MacGyver’ing of an old sports bra. This will allow you to go “hands-free” while keeping the phalanges against the breast so you can read, eat a snack, or swipe through cute photos of your baby on your phone.
For many moms, pumping is a completely new experience, but with a little knowledge, the right pump or method of pumping, and some persistence, moms can be successful. At Burdett, we’re proud to offer the Back to Work/School/Life Program, a class run by our certified lactation consults that gives essential advice on pumping and transitioning back to work or school. Consider attending this class, or one of our Breastfeeding Support Groups, to gain more valuable advice on pumping and breastfeeding.
Our support groups are free and open to the community at large, and registration is not required. Parents may drop in any time, and stay as long as they like. Siblings are also welcome to attend. Please click here to learn more or give us a call at (518) 271-3393 for more information!