Pumping 101: A Short Guide for First Time Mamas
When my son was born nearly 3 weeks early, we were overjoyed to have a healthy, squishy baby to take home. We weren't expecting to be back in the hospital less than 24 hours after we were discharged. Due to his high bilirubin levels (and the fact that he resembled a carrot more than my husband and I) we were admitted to the pediatric ward. My new baby boy was put under the lights and we were under strict orders to only take him out when absolutely necessary. I would alternate between nursing and pumping, both of which I knew absolutely nothing about. So I gathered a few great tips (that I wish I had known) about pumping to help you mamas on your way to a successful routine! I hope these tips can help Mom's get a better grip on what pumping life is all about!
Diet & Lifestyle
- Eat, Drink & Be Full Of Milk! Food and water: these are the two most crucial things that can affect your milk supply. One of the best, most thoughtful things that anyone can do for a new mom is to bring her food and buy her a few fun tumblers to drink water out of. Seriously, it's so much better than drinking out of a plain old glass. I find that I drink way more water this way too. Another mom has even suggested buying a pack of fun, crazy straws to drink from! Any way you can get water into you is the right way! Find a way that works for you.
- More Sleep & Less Stress- Obviously, during the first few months your sleep will take a serious hit. This is the time to take any help you can get and rest. After I started sleeping more, my stress significantly decreased. It is important to recognize this and understand that it can negatively affect your milk supply. So relax as much as you can Momma! It's better for you AND baby that way.
- Avoid Tight Fitting Bras- Super tight sports bras are the worst offender when it comes to restrictive clothing. Wearing bras that are supportive, but not overly tight and restrictive will help you maintain your milk supply. In fact, when I was nursing/pumping, I bought a few nursing sports bras that had just enough support for mild to moderate exercise, but they were loose enough to allow my milk to produce freely.
- Exercise- This is where you really need to listen to your body, because everyone is different. Any milk producing Momma is already burning extra calories, so when exercise is added to your daily routine you will need to adjust your calorie intake even further in order to maintain your milk supply. If you aren't consuming enough calories your milk supply will drop significantly. Ultimately, this comes back to the previous tip of eating, and drinking plenty of liquids. Some forms of exercise, however, may be too strenuous for your body right away, so be sure to consult your doctor before returning to exercise.
- First Time Pumpers- If you are a first time pumper or are considering pumping, I have a word of advice for you. From woman to woman, I will tell you this: you will most likely resemble a dairy cow, albeit a very cute dairy cow. You will discover that your once pretty, shapely, sexy lady bits, are merely rock hard utters to be milked multiple times a day. You will likely laugh-cry the first few times you witness your lady bits being sucked into the pump over and over again. This is normal. Also, your husband may watch you pump with a deer in the headlights look on his face. This is also normal. He's likely been wondering how in the world milk can come out of "there" since he was thirteen and now his brain is exploding. All of this is totally normal.
- Why Pump? I chose to pump for a few reasons. One of the main reasons was to keep up my milk supply and to relieve some pressure when my son had a light feeding. It helped so much! Another reason was because sometimes I just needed a break. And when I needed a break, I had milk on hand to warm up and give to my hubby so he could have some time with our son. I LOVED having a small reserve for days when I was exhausted and needed some rest.
- Shopping for a Pump- If you are going to be pumping regularly, it is important to get a really good pump! I would personally recommend getting an double electric pump as opposed to a manual (or hand) pump. It will save your hands from cramping and it is so much more convenient. I've also heard from other moms that have experience with both manual and automatic pumps that automatic pumps pull the milk out more efficiently. If you're new to the wide world of breast pumps that are available you can always check out our guide, How to Choose the Right Breast Pump. It has some fantastic information on each type of breast pump so you can find exactly the one you want! Keep in mind that most insurance companies do cover at least one type of breast pump, but if you want something specific you may be able to get your doctor to write you a prescription for the one you want!
- Establishing A Good Milk Supply- To start out, you will have to train your body to produce the correct amount of milk that you want it to. A tried a true method to establishing a good milk supply is by pumping every 2-3 hours if you are exclusively pumping. This includes pumping through the night. Your body produces the most milk between the hours of 1-5am, so plan on having at least one pumping session during that time. If you are nursing AND pumping, try inserting a pumping session a few minutes before or after your baby is scheduled to eat. After a few times of doing this, your body will be able to keep up with the demand. While I was nursing, I would pump right when I woke up in the morning, then 2-3x throughout the afternoon (based on my sons eating schedule) and then once right before bed. Because I would nurse him in the middle of the night, I chose to skip the night time pump, but I would encourage any Momma's struggling with their milk supply to still do the middle of the night pumping session to ensure a hearty supply.
- Just Keep Pumping! Even when the milk stops flowing and you think you are done with the pumping session, pump for an extra 5 minutes. This can help make sure the milk ducts are completely depleted of their supply and will decrease the likelihood of Mastitis (ouch!). Also, some women can have 2 or 3 let downs, so pumping for a few extra minutes can stimulate another let down.