Troubleshooting Breastfeeding Part 3: Pumping, and Milk Supply
Developing a good nursing routine with your baby can be tricky. But we’re here to help. In part 3 of our Troubleshooting Breastfeeding series we will discuss pumping and milk supply.
While pumping is often necessary for a woman who will be returning to work, or will be separated from her baby for any reason, it should not take the place of nursing. No matter how good of a pump you buy, pumping is generally not a sufficient way to maintain long term milk supply. Your body was designed to respond to your baby and not a pump.
If you will be pumping often, invest in a good quality pump such as the Madela Pump in Style. A good quality pump will insure that you are able to maintain your milk supply. Cheaper pumps are simply not able to create the quality of expression you will need. If you have trouble purchasing a good pump check with your health insurance company, as they sometimes provide assistance or a hospital grade pump.
The most effective way to pump is to pump after you have nursed your baby. At first, this may mean that you don’t get a lot of milk. After a time your body will adjust to the increased demand for milk and you should be able to pump more.
If you will be working, make it a point to pump often throughout your work shift. The more your breasts are stimulated to make milk, the better your milk supply will be. If it is possible, pumping every two to three hours while you are away from your baby will protect your milk supply. When you are home with your baby it will also be important to nurse frequently.
How to Increase Milk Supply
If you are having trouble maintaining your milk supply, the best way to increase your milk is through demand. Nursing your baby as much as possible, especially during the day, will naturally increase the amount of milk you are making. It is often recommended that a new mother nurse her baby every 2-3 hours during the day and go no longer than 4 hours between nursing at night.
Pumping after or in-between nursing can also help to increase your milk supply, as you are increasing demand.
Another way to help support your milk supply, is to eat foods referred to as galactagogues. Galactagogues are foods that naturally help to increase a mother’s milk supply, along with increasing demand. They include, whole oats (It’s time for some oatmeal chocolate chip cookies!), dark leafy greens, garlic, almonds, chick peas, hops (drink a beer, but keep in mind your baby will also get some of the alcohol), and fennel.
The herb fenugreek is also used to increase supply, especially if you are pumping or trying to reestablish lactation. The rule of thumb is to take a capsule of fenugreek several times a day, increasing until your urine and sweat begin to smell like maple syrup. Maintain that level of supplementation until your milk supply has been re-established, and then discontinue taking it. While fenugreek is a fairly harmless herb, it is important that you check with your doctor if you or your baby have special medical needs or are taking medication.
How to Decrease Milk Supply – If you find that you are in a situation where you are over producing milk and are constantly uncomfortable, or your baby is overwhelmed, you can take steps to decrease your milk supply. Be warry of doing so, however, as it is easy to decrease too much.
Waiting longer between each nursing session is a natural way to decrease your milk supply. Though it will often take days or even a week to be effective, lowering the demand for breastmilk will eventually decrease the amount of milk you make. If you are pumping along with nursing, stop pumping while you wait for your milk to decrease.
Placing fresh green cabbage leaves over your breasts, in your bra, and leaving them until they wilt, is also an effective way to decrease your milk supply. If you are over producing, try this one time and then wait a few days to see if it has any effect. You can repeat it as often as you need, but be aware, as you don’t want to decrease your milk supply too much.
Maintaining milk supply, especially while pumping can be a tricky balance. Using the above tips to help you maintain a good supply can help you to hold onto your breastfeeding relationship longer. For more information and breastfeeding resources see the following:
For more information on troubleshooting breastfeeding see Troubleshooting Breastfeeding Part 1 and 3.
The Womanly Art Of Breastfeeding I can’t recommend this book enough. All women breastfeeding or preparing to breastfeed need to have a copy of this book. It has everything you will need to successfully breastfeed.
La Leche League Website This is a great resource for all breastfeeding mothers.