Pump more and stress less in 4 simple steps

Chances are, if you are breastfeeding you will want or need to pump milk at some point. There are many, many reasons a person might choose to/need to pump breast milk. Some of the most common reasons we hear are:

  • to increase milk supply
  • to alleviate engorgement
  • to allow dad/partner to participate in feeding
  • to re-claim some "me time" (aka. to go out solo)
  • because baby cannot/will not latch
  • because of nipple damage due to breastfeeding
  • because you are getting ready to go back to work/school
Peterborough doulas Hello Baby pumping

No matter what your reason is for pumping, many people find it stressful.  When you feed your baby at the breast, you cannot count the ounces.  It is an exercise in trust -- trust in your body and trust in your baby.  But when you pump, you put numbers on the process and that is where the feelings of "not enough" often creep in.

Stress is the enemy.

If you are making breast milk, stress is the enemy.  Lactation works on a supply and demand system - the more your baby (or pump) demands (ie. the more milk that is drained from your breasts), the more supply your body will make. Making milk (lactation) also requires hormones - the hormone prolactin signals our bodies to make milk and the hormone oxytocin lets the milk flow.    Adrenaline and cortisol (hormones released when we are stressed) get in the way of this process by triggering our basic fight, flight, or freeze response.

So here is the trouble with pumping.  

A person with perfectly adequate milk supply try to squeeze in a pumping session (which can be stressful) and find that they can "only" pump a few ounces (or maybe less) and this causes them stress.  As they sit and wait for that next "let down", they begin to get impatient or anxious. Doubt begins to creep in... and with doubt is more stress.  Stress blocks the release of oxytocin... less oxytocin released means less milk is flowing... less milk flowing gives us more stress... more stress blocks oxytocin... Well, you see where I am going.

Pump more. Stress Less.

It is because of this vicious cycle that it is so important to create a POSITIVE pumping routine.  Making time and space for yourself to pump comfortably and confidently is one of the most important things you can do to ensure a successful pumping session.  Your pump is not your baby but there are ways that you can create a routine that will make it easier for you to get your milk flowing.

1. Learn EVERYTHING about your breast pump.

You have the tools, but do you know how to use them?  Pumps all work on the same basic principles but often have different parts and settings.  Read the manual and ask other pumping parents in your community for advice and reviews.  The Peterborough Mom-to-Mom Breastfeeding Support group on Facebook is a wonderful resource for breastfeeding and pumping parents in our area! Hello, Baby! also offers a fabulous workshop called Pumping 101 to help you make pumping a positive and productive experience.  Check it out!

2. Set up a comfy pumping station.

Set up a pumping station in a quiet and pleasant corner of your home (or office) and place a picture (or two… or more!) of your baby in a visible spot.  Going back to the same spot time and again to pump will send a cue to your body and mind that it is time to produce and express milk.  You will also be able to set up and clean up more quickly because your pump and attachments will be handy.

When you are choosing your pumping spot, try and pick somewhere that does not leave you staring at the dirty dishes in the sink, your lofty laundry pile, or other sources of stress.  Maybe you have a spot where you can look out a window?  Maybe you would like to pump in your child’s nursery?

3. Use your senses

Let's be honest, pumping is not anyone's favourite hobby but it CAN be a positive experience if you engage your senses.  Your pump might be a machine, but you certainly are not!  Take the time to create the time and space you need to pump in comfort.

Sight. Sound. Taste. Smell.  What is your strongest sense?  If looking at photos or videos of your babe gives you the feels, then that might be just the ticket to help get your milk flowing while you pump.  If you are a sucker for a hot drink, or a sweet & salty snack then add a little box of goodies to your pumping station.  Do whatever makes you feel comfortable and easy.

4. Use your hands

Did you think we forgot about touch?  No way! We saved the best for last. Use your hands when you pump.  Gently massage your breasts before starting your pumping session and use hands-on techniques to maximize output while you are expressing milk.  Some moms will even lightly run a comb or baby brush over their breasts while pumping to simulate the feeling of little baby fingers stroking the sensitive breast tissue.  Check out this amazing video on hands-on pumping techniques and hand expression for more information:

Pump on, Mamas.  Pump on.

Pumping doesn't have to be a chore.  It can be a little oasis of productivity and self-care in the middle of a busy baby-filled day.  Making time and space for yourself is important!  We would love to see your pumping stations on Instagram.  Find us online @hellobabyptbo